2018 was the year that the scale and far-reaching nature of the impacts of rapidly-accelerating climate change hit home for many people especially in the northern hemisphere. Here in the benign climes of rural Herefordshire, anybody who is a grower or has spent time outside will have noticed how the weather is changing, the seasons are becoming less predictable and how plants and wildlife are changing their habits - plants flowering and birds singing at the ‘wrong’ time of year. While it is impossible to attribute single weather events to human-made climate change, the extreme weather events and unpredictability of the weather globally is entirely in keeping with the climate models and the sobering warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2018 was not just a year when a long extended drought did for my potatoes and other vegetables, it was the year when a friend’s parents had to flee the wildfires north of Athens while another friend witnessed the fires in California. As someone who has worked professionally on protecting the polar oceans for years, I noted with increasing gloom the charts recording the extent of the sea ice at both poles. Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average throughout 2018 with record-low levels in the first two months of the year. Antarctic sea-ice extent was also well below average throughout 2018. The annual minimum extent occurred in late February and was ranked as one of the two lowest extents. You will have your own observations and stories and if you think about it you will understand the terrifying implications of continuing business as normal and not acting to drastically curb and stop the emission of harmful greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
It is in this context that Extinction Rebellion (XR) has come into being. Extinction Rebellion is social movement that aims to drive radical change, through non-violent direct action (NVDA) in order to avert climate breakdown and minimise species extinction. Extinction Rebellion has three clear demands and the basics about the organisation and how it works can be found in this handbook.
From a small group of activists, Extinction Rebellion has snowballed and on 26th October 2018, 94 prominent opinion formers and top academics, including Drs Rowan Williams and Susie Orbach signed an open letter to the Guardian newspaper in support of the movement. More recently journalist Naomi Klein (author of No Logo) and renowned academic/dissident Noam Chomsky have joined the ranks of people across the globe speaking out in support of the rebellion.
This presentation 'Heading for extinction and what to do about it' by Dr Gail Bradbrook, one of the instigators of Extinction Rebellion, is brutal in that it pulls no punches as to the severity and impacts of global climate change. The presentation also makes clear that it is human behaviour has driven us into the Earth’s 6th extinction crisis and explains how scientific findings are so often diluted when translated into Government policy. Thankfully, Gail also presents an analysis on how civil disobedience and NVDA can expedite social change.
There is an honourable tradition of peaceful rebellion in the United Kingdom and NVDA has been integral to various grassroots campaigns such as the suffragettes, the anti-nuclear movement including the Greenham Common womens’ peace camps, as well as, environmental campaigns such as the anti-road protests of the 1990s, Plane Stupid and more recent anti-fracking protests. My own experience of planning and participating in non-violent direct actions with both grassroots groups and Greenpeace (for over 20 years) has amply demonstrated to me the value of creative confrontations in enabling positive change. One of the distinctive features of Extinction Rebellion is that it is consciously reflective and trying to build on its own and other groups’ learnings.
For these reasons, I have signed up to Extinction Rebellion and where appropriate, am happy to use the platform provided by the Wild Hare Club to support the growing movement’s aims and activities – hence this page.
Extinction Rebellion Herefordshire (XR Hereford) burst into action on 1st December when a mass march and rally with hundreds of concerned citizens took place in Hereford culminating with the handing over of the organisation’s declaration and signatures to Jesse Norman, MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire. (You could send him a message now if you want, it’s not too late!) This protest was not a one-off: many more activities are being planned – including NVDA training - and implemented at the local, regional, national and international scale.
To achieve the systems change necessary to put the brakes on runaway climate change, we will need to escalate the pressure and sustain it over the next months and years and many people will need to put their shoulders to the wheel.
Thank you for taking time to read this page and hopefully you’ll be adding your voice to the many already calling for climate justice and also taking action to bring about the change. It won’t be easy but it’s entirely possible and there’s something good I find about exercising a rebellious spirit.