‘It’s our future and our leaders are failing us – come and join us’
On holiday, looking for a good read, my son recommended ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Hurari. It was a chunky paperback, but even so it struck me as a very short read for such an immense subject… However, it doesn’t take long for Hurari to get into the swing of things – narrating the entire history of the human race as one of gradual but relentless destruction. Beginning seventy thousand years ago, when there were at least six different human species on earth, sapiens annihilated the others before moving to do the same to much of the world’s plant and animal species… Not surprisingly though, our destructive behaviour is catching up with us. In the last few weeks the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report headline was that we only have 12 years to take radical action if we are to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Similarly the WWF report has this week highlighted the fact that since 1970 we have wiped out 60% of the world’s wildlife, and today the Met Office concludes what everyone pretty much knows: that we are experiencing more extreme weather events, hotter and longer summers, and the rest of it. And yet, politicians, the media and the public appear locked in the wishful illusion of business as usual.
Listening to the BBC item today one might be forgiven for feeling that the answer to hotter summers was to plant a tree outside, or open the window a little more…Or perhaps our mindset is one of a superficial denial that masks a much more fatalistic awareness beneath the surface. Whatever the truth, there was not a mention of climate change in the budget, and the papers have reported secret meetings with the thriving fracking lobby.
As many people suspect too, the truth might very well be far worse. Eminent environmental scientists such as Jem Bendall say that the IPCC report is too optimistic and has concluded there will be a near term collapse in society with serious ramifications for all our lives. http://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf So for those of us with a left wing bent environmental issues the question is always, what can be done? Certainly, we need policies that reflect and address the obviously unsustainable nature of the current situation, and questions about how and what we should consume; how far politics should pursue economic growth; and what kind of global politics we should strive for, in what will likely be escalating global crises of famine, war, and migration.
In response to the urgency of the situation, a new climate breakdown resistance movement is forming in Britain. I recently joined ‘Extinction Rebellion’ – an insurgent group in the style of Occupy – who have declared a campaign of non-violent rebellion to call the government to account. The group’s demands include: an immediate reversal of climate-toxic policies, net-zero emissions by 2025 and the establishment of a citizen’s assembly to oversee the radical changes necessary to halt global warming.
In London on Wednesday 31 October, the movement was launched by George Monbiot, environmental writer and campaigner. We listened to him, and to Caroline Lucas, Molly Scott Cato and Clive Lewis, while sitting in the road outside parliament for 2 hours. The police watched patiently on while protestors danced and sang. One told me what a pleasure it was to police this demonstration after recent EDL marches, though fifteen people were arrested which I suppose is par for the course for a group bent on civil disobedience. What next? If the government does not respond seriously to our demands, civil disobedience will commence from 12 November with a return to Parliament Square programmed for ‘ Rebellion Day ‘, on Saturday 17 November.
Joanna Hughes, Cheltenham CLP