Extinction Rebellion: Why I am willing to get arrested for climate change action

Anonymous

Today, November 17th, the environmental group Extinction Rebellion, is holding a day of mass non-violent civil disobedience in London.  We are campaigning for meaningful climate change action before it is too late. Many of us present are willing to get arrested for this cause.

We are campaigning for meaningful climate change action

Growing up, I was only vaguely environmental. It was only recently that I had the shock I needed to wake up. It stemmed from reading that we are currently in a mass stage of extinction: 60% of animals have been wiped out by human activity since 1970.

There is major discord between scientists’ and the general public’s impression of climate change.  An avalanche of statistics is not the route to anyone’s heart but here are some crucial ones.

The global temperature has risen by one degree Celsius compared to pre-Industrial levels.  The 2016 Paris Climate Agreement aimed to cap the warming at 1.5° with an absolute limit of 2°.

Right now, that will not happen.  Research published in the PNAS, The Journal for the National Academy of Sciences, warned that there is a 1% chance that we will hit the 1.5° target and a 5% chance that we will stay within the  2°cap by 2100. The UN has stated that we have twelve years before a 1.5° cap is impossible. Mainstream science predicts a 2- 5° warming, the median forecast is 3°.

If the temperature rise increases, crops will fail. Think about our history. The threat of starvation has caused human beings to commit unspeakable atrocities. There is a one in twenty chance that the temperature will rise by 5° and pose an ‘existential threat’. Actual extinction. I want children in the future, although I now doubt how fair that would be. I will fight for them not to have an apocalyptic planet.

Actual extinction. I want children in the future, although I now doubt how fair that would be. I will fight for them not to have an apocalyptic planet.

Climate change and environmental destruction had always seemed so vast and overwhelming. The everyday person remembering to turn off the light appears rather futile next to 24/7 neon-lit metropolises or ski resorts in the desert.

It is helpful to find a way of accessing the problem to make it mean something. For me, dots started to join when considering the refugee crisis. Many of the humanitarian workers I met in Calais refugee camp were heading to other emergencies. One woman was going to Lesbos to volunteer as a lifeguard, another was returning to Hong Kong to work with Bangladeshi refugees, a third was travelling to Columbia to support internally displaced families. I saw suddenly that when sea levels rise further, more people will be displaced, crisis zones will become more numerous, and our present, straggling ‘lifeboat’ will be stretched past breaking point.

If you are concerned about inequality, know that environmental catastrophes like the melting Himalayas or desertification will harm poorer people and people in the global south first.

If you are concerned about inequality, know that environmental catastrophes like the melting Himalayas or desertification will harm poorer people and people in the global south first. Or, perhaps imagine your city, your family. Due to climate change, the number of UK households that hold a significant risk of flooding will rise to 1.9 million by 2050.

Predictions like these lead us to assume that we’ll invent a fix, the government will sort it out and we’ll always be okay.

Except that we are NOT okay… We are in the middle of a mass extinction process.

Step in Extinction Rebellion. This is a group led by scientists and academics who seek to mobilize citizens and fight for our lives. Their slogan is: ‘Hope dies, Action begins’. There are three principal demands.  

1) The government must tell the truth. The ecological emergency is not being acknowledged. We are still prioritising ‘economic factors’ over environmental considerations.

2) The UK must enact measures to go carbon neutral by 2025. This is possible. The scientific and technological solutions exist. It may not however maximise profits. Thus, it is unlikely that it will be instigated by our current government whose green accolades include

-Approving fracking, which is worse for the environment than mining.

-Authorising a third runway at Heathrow which will produce the same amount of CO2 as Cyprus.

-Abandoning the flagship green home scheme, onshore wind power, solar subsidies and onshore tidal power.

Step in Extinction Rebellion. Their slogan is: ‘Hope dies, Action begins’.

3) Form a citizens’ General Assembly. In this state of emergency, we must give power to the people. This would work by randomly selecting sample citizens in order to have full representation like the jury. The citizens would be advised by scientists and academics and enact policies to avert catastrophe.

The threat is devastating and it requires a radical response. Movements such as the fight against apartheid, the struggle for women’s suffrage and civil rights demonstrate that successful change comes from mass, non-violent civil disobedience.

The threat is devastating and it requires a radical response. Governments have to listen or lose power.

Governments have to listen or lose power.

I remember my Dad saying he hoped he would have been a suffragette. None of us look at history and suppose that we would have been on the wrong side.

During the American civil rights movement three hundred student freedom riders were arrested. And they won. The South changed their laws and desegregated the buses.

It took 15 arrests during protests in London over air pollution to bring Sadiq Khan to the table.

Are there any causes for which you would break the law?

We are all busy balancing our degrees, futures, mental health.  All this will mean nothing without a planet. Please, take a second and do your own research. Look up Extinction Rebellion. You don’t need to be willing to get arrested! We’re in London today to stand with the Extinction Rebellion. The time is now.

Images by lusciousblopster via Flickr & David Holt via Flickr

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