Ten Days With Extinction Rebellion
What did I learn?
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Uncooperative crusties, middle-class do-gooders, unemployed wasters.
Or, otherwise known as Extinction Rebellion protestors.
I’ve been involved with Extinction Rebellion for over two years now and I’ve heard us called all sorts. But in reality, we are people from all walks of life coming together to fight for the future of all life on this planet. There’s no class, race, age or gender divide as the climate crisis affects us all.
As well as hearing all sorts of names, I’m conscious that quite often a lot of people only hear about XR blocking roads, or that X number of people have been arrested, or that it’s cost X to police the protests. This is thanks in part to lazy reporting by the media who choose to focus on trying to divide us all, rather than to talk about the reasons why we target certain places, or even why we’re protesting at all.
So, after having recently spent 10 days on the streets of London as part of the Impossible Rebellion I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the things I learnt from the actions so you can see that there’s more to it than disruption for disruption’s sake.
Before we dive in, I should make it clear that this article doesn’t cover all of the actions that happened during the Impossible Rebellion, they are a snapshot of what happened and why.
The IPCC Report
Just two weeks before the Impossible Rebellion started the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released their 6th report since it was established in 1988.
Described as a ‘code red for humanity’ by the UN Chief it clearly stated that human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and at times, irreversible ways. It warned of extreme heatwaves, droughts, flooding and crop failures. Which to be frank, are things we are already seeing, it’s just going to get a whole lot worse.
It also stated that the 1.5° warming limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement will be hit in just over a decade unless massive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are made quickly.
Now when you hear 1.5° it may not sound too bad.
A 21° day instead of a 19° day maybe?
But in reality it’s way more severe than that. When they say a rise of 1.5° they’re talking about a global average, meaning some areas will see extreme rises – just look at the recent fires and heatwaves that have hit Canada, Turkey, Greece and Siberia. And that’s at 1.1°.
Someone explained a rise of 1.5° to me recently as thinking about your bodies temperature. If it rises or falls by a couple of degrees you are sick, really sick. It’s the same with our planet. At 1.5°+ our climate is sick and will start to break down.
The IPCC report states “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land”.
Man made climate change isn’t up for debate anymore. It’s our fault, and we have to try and limit the damage before it’s too late.
The Fight Against Fossil Fuels
If the city of London was a country it would be the 9th biggest emitter of carbon emissions in the world.
That is thanks to the actions of our banks and financial institutions, which found themselves at the heart of the bulk of actions during the Impossible Rebellion.
Road Block at Department for Business, Energy and Trade
Commenting on the IPCC report, Boris Johnson said: “We know what must be done to limit global warming – consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline.”
And yet the UK government are refusing to put a stop to a new deep coal mine in Wales and to stop the proposed Cambo oil field near the Shetland Islands.
The licence for Cambo was originally granted in 2001 and drilling could start as early as next year. It’s expected to produce oil and gas for 25 years yet, the International Energy Agency which advises Governments have said investment in fossil fuels must stop now. And that we already have more than five times the amount of oil and gas than we can afford to burn to stay consistent with the Paris Agreement.
So, why aren’t the Government stepping in. Well, there’s a lot of money in fossil fuels and where there’s money there’s power and corruption.
This speech from George Monbiot at the roadblock outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy helps to explain how the fossil fuel industry is controlling and corrupting our government.
Road Block at HMRC
Here at Kakadu Creative, we’d discovered how bad Barclays Bank are thanks to previous actions carried out by Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace and we swiftly switched our banking to ethical bank Starling.
However, I had no idea that HMRC banks with Barclays. Which means that not only are the Government not stopping new fossil fuel projects they’re using our taxes and National Insurance to help fund them.
Barclays alone was responsible for $85 billion of fossil fuel project funding since 2015 – the year of the Paris Agreement. Which makes it the sixth-largest backer of fossil fuels in the world and the worst “climate offender in Europe” and they’re doing this with our money.
Healthcare Workers, Broken Windows and Blocked Roads at JP Morgan Chase
As well as targeting HMRC and the Department for Business, Energy and Trade several actions were carried out in the financial district and against JP Morgan Chase, another financial giant funding the destruction of our environment and climate for profit.
In fact, they are the number 1 investor in fossil fuel projects globally.
This is why they were targeted with several actions during the Impossible Rebellion. Including a roadblock, a suffragette inspired action by a group of female activists and another by Doctors for XR.
Alongside the actions taken by Extinction Rebellion against the fossil fuel industries and the government agencies involved, our sister movement Animal Rebellion was busy shining a light on the damage animal agriculture is doing.
They blocked the distribution centre of Arla Foods, which is the UK’s biggest dairy factory, and they also staged a pyjama party in the Leicester Square McDonalds branch.
Both actions were calling on the businesses to transition to a plant-based menu/product line by 2025.
Animal agriculture is a huge player in the destruction of our environment. From clear-cutting woodland and rainforest to grow feed and create grazing lots, to the emissions from the animals, processing plants and transportation, to pollution of our waterways and water table through chemical and fertiliser runoff and the emptying and destruction of our oceans.
Not to mention the endless cruelty and harm inflicted on the billions of animals that are a part of the industry every year.
Check out this video to see more of what Animal Rebellion did and why during the Impossible Rebellion.
What were the Pink Tables About?
You may have seen some footage of roads and junctions being blocked with big pink tables. These were there to symbolise the message ‘come to the table and talk about how we solve climate crisis.’
Extinction Rebellion has three core demands:
Tell the Truth
This is asking for Governments and Media agencies to tell the public the truth about the climate emergency and what needs to happen to limit its worst effects. Spoiler alert, switching to an electric car isn’t going to do fix it.
This is asking for Governments to take serious action now, not keep talking about it and making lovely speeches. Deeds not words are what we need.
Dealing with climate change, adapting to it and mitigating its worst effects are going to need changes in our society that won’t be popular to everyone. This is a big factor in why Governments like to make speeches but not actually do anything major. They’re worried about losing votes.
This is why the 3rd demand of Extinction Rebellion is that Governments create a citizen’s assembly to make the decisions for them.
If you’re not familiar with a citizen’s assembly it’s a bit like jury service. People are randomly selected to ensure a cross-section of society is represented in the decision-making process. They are then given access to experts and facts and figures to help them make a decision on how best to deal with the challenge presented to them.
They’ve been used successfully in the past to deal with topics that are political hot potatoes that Governments are worried about tackling for fear of losing votes. For example, one was used in Ireland to decide on abortion rights.
It means that the decision that is made can be presented as a decision by the people, for the people and the government in charge can sidestep any responsibility and backlash from the result.
What Can You Do?
Climate change can feel like a huge issue and, I’m not going to lie, it is.
But, that doesn’t mean that we all can’t play a part in tackling it. Lot’s of small actions add up to really big things.
There’s a really great saying…
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
And the same goes for action on climate change.
There is a huge amount we can all do, from ditching meat, fish and dairy, flying less (or not at all), driving less (or not at all), buying waaaaay less and choosing pre-loved items over new, switching to an ethical bank, turning your garden into a haven for nature, switching to a renewable energy provider and so much more.
Plus, you can use your time and energy to get involved with protesting and lobbying your local MP, Council and Government to take action on Climate Change. The more our leaders hear that climate change is an issue for their constituents the more willing they will be to take the action needed.
If after reading this you’re interested in a chat about Extinction Rebellion and getting involved please do drop me a line with the contact form below.
And don’t worry, you don’t have to get arrested. The vast majority of XR activists have never been arrested but I take my hat off to the ones who have put their bodies and freedoms on the line for us all.
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