Twenty years ago I travelled to London for the Carnival Against Capital.
I was a graphic design student trying to reject advertising. A young idealist who took inspiration from Adbusters magazine. I was too stoned to have any proper answers, but I knew that I didn’t want a career as a ‘creative’ trying to sell unnecessary ‘stuff’ to hungry consumers. Capitalism was the enemy.
The sun shone. We marched. We danced.
It was a riot.
An actual proper riot. Broken glass. Fire. Chaos.
Over the following years I have chanted outside arms fairs, danced on roundabouts with Reclaim The Streets, drunk warm cider under ancient oaks with tree protesters, marched with a million people against the war in Iraq (shame on you, Tony). I’ve sung to imprisoned refugees over the barbed wire fences of immigration detention centres, stood in solidarity with prosecuted protesters and flashmobbed outside courtrooms in support of political activists. I’ve been assaulted by a police officer. I’ve been illegally kettled. And to be honest, these experiences had left me feeling suspicious about the effectiveness of protest and angry about police brutality.
But now a new rebellion is underway. An organised and peaceful rebellion, offering training in non-violent direct action. Extinction Rebellion activists are doing a grand job of forcing climate change into the media and onto the political agenda. With over 1000 arrests, it is shaping up to be the biggest civil disobedience in recent history. But there are always naysayers casting doubt on the effectiveness of direct action. Here are a few comments spotted online recently:
“Surly there is a lot better things they could be doing how do they find the time. Doesn’t any of them have to work. How selfish they are when police already over worked have to give up their well earned holiday. Selfish selfish people”
“I wholeheartedly support their aims in reducing climate change. But by disrupting the lives of ordinary working folk they won’t achieve anything. They’re targeting the wrong people.”
“This protest is futile & pathetic. A whole bunch of eco warriors. I bet you all fly on holidays, drive cars, how green us your carbon foot print. Get a life please, your only here once”
Yes, the XR demonstrations have caused disruption on the streets. Yes, the police operation has cost millions of pounds. But it’s important to remember that without protest and direct action, our world would be a very different place.
Do you think women should be allowed to vote? Maybe you think it’s OK to own another human? Or that people should be segregated based on the colour of their skin? From Abolitionists and Suffragettes to through to Occupy and XR, protest does make a difference. Direct action has paved the way for social changes leading to:
The Abolition of Slavery
End to Racial Segregation
Votes for Women
Sexual Equality (erm, ok we might still have a bit of work to do)
Independence for Former Colonies
End of Apartheid
On 30th April, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs met with Extinction Rebellion members. On 1st May, Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion to declare a climate emergency, which was passed by MPs in an opposition day debate at the house of commons. This is in direct response to the recent school climate strike and protests by Extinction Rebellion. It feels as if the government are finally starting to listen.
It isn’t too late to get involved. The next wave of XR protest is starting soon! The Summer Uprising will take place in five UK cities from 15th-20th July, and there are lots of other events and trainings listed on the XR website here. The youth climate strikes are ongoing and a week of global climate strike is planned from 20th-27th September.
If you support the cause, but aren’t able to join the protests in person, don’t despair: there’s a lot that you can do from home.
Here are ten things you can do to help XR achieve their aims from the comfort of your own armchair:
Boycott new clothing and textiles for a year! Sign the #XR52 pledge here: https://www.xrfashionboycott.com/
Write to your MP to demand climate action: https://www.writetothem.com/
Stop flying around for fun! Take the Flight Free 2020 pledge
https://www.flightfree.co.uk/pledge and travel by train and boat for your holidays!
Switch to a green energy company. We use Ecotricity. If you need incentive to make the switch, we will both get a £25 voucher for Ethical Superstore if you use my referral code: Message me for details! Bulb also have a referral code scheme so it’s worth asking around to see if you’ve got any friends who have already made the switch. Octopus Energy give £25 credit and donate £25 to the Women’s Environment Network.
Fight food waste! Try https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/ for tips. It is estimated that the UK could save over 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by reducing food waste!
Replace your standard bulbs with LED lightbulbs to voluntarily reduce your carbon footprint. Ethical Superstore* have a good range.
Switch to a more plant based diet. Try ordering an organic veg box to cut down on packaging and food miles. We get a box from Riverford*. They even have a 100% UK grown option, for dedicated local food enthusiasts. Riverford also have a refer-a-friend scheme where you (and the person who referred you) will get £15 credit on your account. If you want to try a box, message me and I’ll give you more details!
Join Terracycle and help set up some unusual recycling collection points in your area. There are lots of free schemes for everything from crisp packets to contact lenses and toothbrushes. Find out more at https://www.terracycle.com/en-GB/
Heartfelt thanks from this armchair activist to all the rebellious souls who have taken to the streets to get climate change noticed. This is an emergency. It’s time to take action. In the words of youth strike leader Greta Thunberg: “I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is”
PHOTO CREDIT: Creative Commons image altered and reproduced courtesy of INFOUS on Flickr
*Links with an asterisk are affiliate links. The Green Shopper will get a few pennies from any sales made. This is not evil capitalism, I’m just trying to spread some knowledge and good words without selling my soul . I promise to spend any proceedings wisely.