Extinction Rebellion or Extinction?

Red Brigade – Whitehall 2019

“Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.” – Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

While responsibility for fossil fuel impacts on climate change falls fairly on oil companies and governments, and recent campaigns by XR have called on banks to disinvest in fossil fuels, around one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from our food. Responsibility for this comes from choices we all make every time we go shopping. In the UK if you eat a meal with dairy milk, beef, avocados and tomatoes, it totals about 15kg of greenhouse gases, per serving. Whereas, by substituting more sustainable items, such as oat milk, tofu, potatoes, peas, and locally produced fruit, you would have a meal that would cost the planet 0.3kg! Change can happen at many levels and we can all be part of the solution.

Lifestyle changes like moving to renewable energy and adapting eating habits are essential in the transition from current western society usage patterns to sustainable use of resources. Society needs both utilisation of technology and a modified way of life to keep our planet habitable for humans. As a longtime rebel there’s never been a more important campaign for me than the present effort to stop our society from self destruction. It saddens me how many of my own family and friends are just turning a blind eye to reality or choosing to ignore the scary news. They are tragically representative of most people in the developed world who continue business as usual and preserving the status quo rather than doing what is necessary to provide a safe and sustainable world for our children and grandchildren. It’s all very sad!

Fortunately there are people from all walks of life who are not content to sit back and wait for the apocalypse to happen but take direct action to initiate positive change. I fully grasped my feelings towards these activists when I attended my first Extinction Rebellion rally in London. As I emerged from the train station and saw the banners and tents and thousands of protesting rebels gathered around Trafalgar Square I felt tears streaming down my face. I’d found my tribe.

XR describes itself as “an international “non-violent civil disobedience” movement.” It believes life on Earth is in crisis and facing a mass extinction and wants all governments to declare a “climate and ecological emergency” and take immediate action. XR’s campaigning voice is distinct from most other ‘green groups’. Like me many of it’s supporters are active in all kinds of other community groups and give time and energy to other causes too. But XR focuses on three simple demands and believes in direct action whilst sounding the alarm on the climate and ecological emergency. XR simply demands governments tell the truth, act now and set up people’s assemblies. We don’t trust in ‘business as usual’ with the traditional excuse making and empty targets of politicians. Our approach may be imperfect, but – over the past 3 years – it’s helped create a huge shift in the public perception of the urgency of action on this existential crisis.

The failure of COP26 demonstrates the absolute need for continuing action. Good intentions and aspirational pledges won’t solve the Climate Crisis. Policy setting and objectives need to be supported by real world interventions and action. Amongst the chaotic clamour of Covid recovery, service cuts and the spiralling cost of living there is a very real danger that we are ignoring the greater, global disaster heading our way. Just because a target has been set, we cannot just walk away trusting it will be met. We should be diligently suspicious of platitudes; it’s not what is said, but what is done that matters.

Financial constraints are real, but they cannot be the reason to fail. We need to find ways to take control of our behaviours. Incrementally decreasing carbon outputs, creating better habitats, generating cleaner energy, reducing plastics, improving transport options. The more we do, the greater the impact and the wider the benefits. XR doctors and scientists have accused the government of “irresponsible and dangerous pursuit of fossil fuels, which is incompatible with climate change.”

It is clear that our community recognises that ‘business as usual’ in government is not enough: we need to see courage, conviction and creativity to do what is required. Politicians claim to want to work with the community to tackle the climate crisis but to do this effectively, they need to talk honestly with residents and work with the numerous community groups that are hungry for action.

In 2019, XR launched with a Declaration of Rebellion which said: “We refuse to bequeath a dying planet to future generations.” Three years on, as the science continues to evidence the peril and increasing urgency of the situation, we continue to sound the alarm. XR looks to our elected representatives for real leadership and will campaign and take radical renegade actions until they put the climate and all our futures first. We should all be demanding action from the government and demanding truth from the media, because it’s time to get real. But, let’s not forget that we can do more every time we go shopping. Think of the climate before you buy. Be a renegade and maybe join the red brigade!

Published by Graham Ellis

As a child of the '60's with a wanderlust spirit I just followed my dreams and opportunities as they arose. My journey took me to some of the brightest and darkest places imaginable. I met amazing people on the way, some were famous and some are infamous. Some are just great friends with stories that blended with mine as we traveled together on land, on the sea and in the sky. We all share the renegade spirit !

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