Hello and welcome to February’s Voice for Arran!

I happen to be writing this at 11pm on 31st January, what is technically ‘Brexit day’, Brexit hour even, signifying the official time when the UK leaves the EU. After all the political hoo-ha over the last year it’s sort of crept up, and I’m even a bit surprised. Despite all the talk of bunting and bell ringing, I have had no thought as to what I would be doing when the UK departed. And so here I am, typing away!

At least now the energy of political wrangling over Brexit can perhaps be turned towards a focus on the far greater predicament of the warming planet. The Climate Assemby UK began last weekend, an event taking place over several weekends, where members of the public are brought together to discuss, debate, and seek solutions to the climate crisis. This is a potentially informative process, yet as Sir David Attenborough said to the gathered participants, the foundation of our political system, where leaders change every 4 or 5 years, means politicians remain focused on the short term achievements of their administration, rather than to longer term thinking so necessary for effective action on climate. The democratic rationale behind these political structures seems to be working against the immense needs of our planet at the moment. A time for systems change on so many levels I feel.

Of course these matters aren’t helped if those working and campaigning for a healthier and sustainable planet are also viewed as extremist, as adversaries to the state. Over the last month, it was revealed that the main environmental organisations have been included in a Counter Terrorist Policing briefing, at least in England. I share Sally Campbell’s shock (see From the Drake passage en route to Antarctica) over this disclosure, which is perhaps the more ironic as the environmental protests taking place in recent months have been overtly peaceful, with activists actually training in non-violent methods of communication and action throughout their campaign.

It is a stark reminder of the different and often entrenched understandings people have about one another according to the particular position in which they stand. So it is also a reminder to try and understand ‘the other’ so that unhelpful labels about peacefully motivated people are not harmfully allocated, as we have seen elements of the police do in this instance. Brian Larkin’s account in London Plane Tree of his reasons to join with non-violent demonstration is a great example of these issues, and leaves the reader both in no doubt about his motivation to protect and help, and with clarity about and empathy for his actions.

This coming month there is a chance to join peaceful protest in Arran on the 14th. Along with the Climate Strikes taking place across the world, Arran’s event will be at the Octopus Centre, in Lamlash, (time to be confirmed so check out COAST’s facebook). Also in February there is a lovely Music Arran concert with Gaia Duo, who are two young musicians committed to uncovering the rich heritage of music by women composers over the centuries. There is the monthly Sunday film in Corrie and if you’re quick on the 1st, it is the Day in the Dark mini film festival, in Corrie and Sannox village hall also. Finally the new ACVS volunteer newsletter (PDF) is out with lots of interesting things to get involved with over the next few months. Have a great month, and hope you enjoy the issue!