Somewhat to his own surprise, Chris found himself participating in one of the largest ‘acts of peaceful civil disobedience in the UK in decades’ – the blocking of several London bridges with around 6,000 other Extinction Rebellion protestors seeking to use nonviolent protest to force policymakers and government institutions to accept that climate change is both an existential crisis – and an extinction threat.
Chris suggests that we each need to reflect deeply on our response to the existential threat we clearly face. Getting involved in Extinction Rebellion could be a natural response. Another focus for protest could be to pressure local councils to declare a climate emergency, as have several of cities, London & Bristol, and other local councils (Totnes, Stroud, Frome, Forest of Dean to date) around the UK. The domino effect of councils declaring could drive climate action locally and potentially, nationally. But the real challenge is to follow up with ensuring councils get effective independent scrutiny – an informed and organised ‘Committee for Climate Change’ in each local authority one example being that set up in Leeds.
The Extinction Rebellion (ER) movement states:
‘We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. The government has failed to protect us. To survive, it’s going to take everything we’ve got.’
- 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 Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.
Chris goes on to say
“I guess we have all been affected by the speech by David Attenborough in Katowice, and even more so by the clarity and simplicity of Greta Thunberg. We have simply failed future generations, there is no other way to frame it. Coming on the back of the recent IPCC report, as well as reports on the levels of extinctions, the warnings could not be more stark.
While I shall not be here to see the really catastrophic effects of global heating and species extinction later this century, I have two beautiful grandchildren and they and all of their generation certainly will. The window of opportunity is now maybe 10 years, to have even a chance of doing anything effective. It is closing terrifyingly fast. What would I say to them if I could? That I knew all this, but didn’t put everything I had into turning it round? That I knew, but left it for them to sort out? That, in the last few years when there was still the opportunity to do something, and while I still could, I didn’t really try? We all have these questions to answer now. We all know. And it is very hard.
We can all feel very powerless in the face of the crisis, and largely of course as individuals we are. But there is still some hope that if we work together, we could begin to turn this around. The one thing we can be completely sure about is that we can’t actually know what is going to happen. We can predict with reasonable levels of certainty some of the effects, but nothing ever turns out quite how we expect. We have to live with hope
Personally, the environmental crisis has threaded through my life. From short-lived, self-sufficient commune in the 70s, through to the work I do now with the AECB, the Passivhaus Trust, my business and other voluntary activities it has always been there: the awareness that we were living beyond our means and that change was needed. But with the final window of opportunity closing, while all of these actions are important I am convinced that the only way of creating change is through political pressure. We simply need government at all levels to do so much more, as David Attenborough made starkly clear in his appeal. But for this to happen it needs lots of us to get out there and try to make a difference. And it needs us to have the courage to speak truth to power, and non-violently to challenge power.
This is why I support the activities of Extinction Rebellion, and maybe why I might be arrested too. We need to get out there and we need to make power listen. But I have also been encouraged by the political developments going on at local level, particularly the declaration by the majors of both Bristol and London, and of other local councils of climate emergency, together with a commitment to incredibly challenging but necessary targets for decarbonisation. Zero Carbon by 2030 is unbelievably ambitious, but also according to recent work, the direction we need to be going in. The direction has been mapped by the Centre for Alternative Technology, so we do understand the implications. The more local governments which declare climate emergency, the more pressure this must put on central government, as well as enabling us to start to hold our local representatives to account. I’m excited by this, as I think we might very quickly see a domino effect, and this could put powerful pressure on central government.
In my own local council in West Yorkshire, there is now a move by councillors to move a motion for climate emergency for Kirklees Council. At the moment I see supporting this as probably the most important thing I can do to have some small effect. We may well be pushing at an open door, but the more people who support this and show their support, the more likelihood that this will go through. But if it does go through, that is where the real work starts. We shall need institutions to hold our council to account, through transparency and public scrutiny. And that perhaps brings me back to the AECB. To achieve the dramatic cuts in CO2 emissions needed, we need expertise. What does the AECB have? A body of expertise in sustainable building like no other in the UK.
So my appeal is to all AECB members to get out there and get active. Demonstrate, be arrested, whatever you feel appropriate. Lobby your local government, and when you have been successful, use that hard won expertise we all have to hold them to account.
To quote Greta Thunberg “This is what we have to do. This is what we have to focus on every hour of every day. This is everyone’s moral duty. Starting today.”
Background on the Extinction Rebellion.
Rising Up! is a new organisation aiming to be a social movement. We are calling for a fundamental change of the political and economic system to one which maximises well being and minimises harm. We believe change needs to be rooted in reverence and gratitude and that confrontation through mass civil disobedience is necessary.
Because deep down we all know the dominant system we live in does not serve the majority, failing to provide even the basics of life – food, clean water, clean air, and shelter for millions of people.
Because deep down it does not serve this beautiful miracle called Planet Earth, upon which we are all dependent on and interdependent with. We are heading for a planetary Fry-up. The Alarm bells are ringing.
Because change without Compassion, without the inner, personal change, as history has shown, often leads to a repetition of the domination of the few, those with power and control of resources, over the many.
Because coming together with others, sharing our voices and our vision, is the antidote to overwhelm, despair, and powerlessness.
When I speak of love, I’m not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. It would be nonsense to urge men to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. I’m not talking about that. When I speak of love, I am speaking of the kind of love that organises itself into a mass movement that says somehow I am my brother’s keeper, and he’s so wrong that I am willing to fight –and die, if necessary — to get him right again. Martin Luther King
Rising Up! was formed by activists who have also been part of Compassionate Revolution, Earth First! Occupy, Plan Stupid, Radical Think Tank and Reclaim the Power. Rising Up! is linked to Compassionate Revolution which was birthed in the Occupy movement. We seek a better more beautiful world we recognise is both necessary and possible. It is an idea, a term that can be adopted. We share a vision for change which we hope is inclusive. We offer a space that can be used for actions needing collective intent.
Our Principles and Values are that:
- WE HAVE A SHARED VISION OF CHANGE
Creating a world that is fit for the next 7 generations to live in.
- WE SET OUR MISSION ON WHAT IS NECESSARY
Mobilising 3.5% of the population to achieve system change – such as “Momentum-driven organising” to achieve this.
- WE NEED A REGENERATIVE CULTURE
Creating a culture which is healthy, resilient and adaptable.
- WE OPENLY CHALLENGE OURSELVES AND THIS TOXIC SYSTEM
Leaving our comfort zones to take action for change.
- WE VALUE REFLECTING AND LEARNING
Following a cycle of action, reflection, learning, and planning for more action. Learning from other movements and contexts as well as our own experiences.
- WE WELCOME EVERYONE AND EVERY PART OF EVERYONE
Working actively to create safer and more accessible spaces.
- WE ACTIVELY MITIGATE FOR POWER
Breaking down hierarchies of power for more equitable participation
- WE AVOID BLAMING AND SHAMING
We live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.
- WE ARE A NON-VIOLENT NETWORK
Using nonviolent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.
- WE ARE BASED ON AUTONOMY AND DECENTRALISATION
We collectively create the structures we need to challenge power. Anyone who follows these core principles and values can take action in the name of RisingUp!