By Sue Weaver
Rebellion in the face of Climate Emergency was declared on 31st October 2018 in Parliament Square, by speakers including George Monbiot, Greta Thunberg and Molly Scott Cato MEP. Two open letters of support were published in the following days, each signed by 100 prominent academics, scientists and public figures, amongst them Rowan Williams, Danny Dorling, Susie Orbach, Naomi Klein and Chris Packham. They warned that the science is clear: we are already in the 6th great planetary extinction event and facing catastrophe, not just for ourselves, but for most forms of life on Earth.
This was the birth of Extinction Rebellion, a movement that calls for mass economic disruption using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to halt the destruction of the planet and its wildlife and prevent catastrophic climate change.
31st October 2018 was also the day I moved away from Arran to return to Carmarthenshire. I couldn’t be in London that day but my heart was there and I knew that rejoining the mainland would enable me to throw myself into the movement, known as XR.
Throughout November, many self-declared rebels held non-violent actions of civil disobedience in London streets and on London bridges to draw attention to the climate emergency we face. Many were arrested, most released without charge. Membership and events spread rapidly to many other UK cities, reaching Scotland on 24th November in Edinburgh. Around the world, environmental campaign groups and activists watched the action unfold. There is a growing hope that this could be the start to a new form of international mobilisation for climate action and since November Extinction Rebellion has grown into an international movement. Events are currently planned in 27 other countries.
Here in Britain, this has been a period of reflecting and learning, with much local action as XR, which emphasises local autonomy and decentralisation, recruits and organises across the country. A climate emergency has been declared in London, amongst many cities and counties in Britain.
Carmarthenshire XR already has several hundred members, organised into local affinity groups. I’m part of the Tywi group, named after our river, with about 12 diverse members, from therapists to plumbers to environmental experts. Some of us are willing to be arrested, others take on roles like talking to passers-by, singing or looking after those in the frontline. On an extremely wet, cold December day I took part in a die-in in Carmarthen amidst the Christmas rush. Our group welfare person had a rucksack of hot drinks to revive us dead ones. Bliss. This coming weekend we will lead a procession of mourning through the town for all the animals being made extinct, with many in costume. Later next week, I’ll be leading an evening Book Journey, over 6 weeks, based around the book Active Hope, by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, which seeks to support us in facing the direst news and not losing our spirit, willingness to act, our courage. There are many roles in this non-violent rebellion, no-one is rejected, just as no-one is blamed for this crisis not of our individual making.
On 13th February, one brave County Councillor is putting forward a motion for Carmarthenshire to declare its own Climate Emergency and take necessary action at this local level. We’ll be there in support and, if it fails, to take direct action. And in April we’re heading for London and the next big wave of civil disobedience.
Why is this happening now, and why is civil disobedience being chosen as a tactic? The answer is simply that it is thirty years since it has been well understood by scientists that humans are causing unprecedented global warming, which, if unchecked will lead to climate meltdown and the collapse of our eco-system. Margaret Thatcher was very concerned about it. Since that time, absolutely nothing has halted the steady increase in emissions of greenhouse gases. Shortly before the Declaration of Rebellion, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reported that if the global temperature rises by 1.5°C, humans will face unprecedented climate-related risks and weather events. We are on track for a 3-4°C temperature rise.
The 2018 IPCC report is the most up-to-date and comprehensive explanation of the science of climate change and the future of Earth. 91 lead authors and 133 contributing authors, from 40 countries, assessed 30,000 scientific papers and made over 42,000 comments during the review process.
XR is a movement of ordinary people who are facing the full implications of climate change for humanity and the planet’s eco-systems. We believe it is time to stop shielding people from the consequences of the crisis, out of fear of being too alarming. The solutions XR advocates have been seen as impossible, but we believe they could now gather mainstream support.
The three key demands XR is making are
• The Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.
• The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.
• A national Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.
Using peaceful civil disobedience as a means to engage people in power struggles against governments that ignore oncoming catastrophe, and demand meaningful change, is what makes Extinction Rebellion unique. I’m glad to be a part of it.
Follow this link to read XR’s DECLARATION OF REBELLION.
“To love truth for truth’s sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the seed-plot of all other virtues” John Locke
Whilst being arrested, one rebel was asked “Do you have anything to say?” – They replied “This is for my nieces and nephews. So that we can work towards a greater planet for them to live on. A healthy planet, a sustainable future for my little 3-year-old niece. This is for you, Adeline.”