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Pete Lawrence - 14 Oct 2019
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"Firms ignoring climate crisis will go bankrupt", Mark Carney

It's been quite a week and we're not done yet. As I write from the warmth and safety of my house in Frome I'm reading that the police have issued an order to clear Trafalgar Square from 9pm this evening, October 14th. The rebellion will continue. As the woman who is locked on in this video says “You can’t help but feel the love”. That’s what it’s all about. 

It's important now that we love like we have never loved before.

Whatever happens from now, the events of the past week will already go down in history as game-changing. With the staging of the first ever Peoples Assembly in parliament, the first appearance for an XR representative on the BBC's flagship Q&A Question Time and a millionaire media's agenda paying much overdue attention to the week's world wide rebellions, you'd think that the rebels might have already quit while ahead. But the restless spirit of Extinction Rebellion remains resolute, if difficult to pin down by its very adaptative nature. Protests ensued and deeds triumphed over words and ideas  - a doctor's march, a grief march down Oxford Street, a sit in at city airport, another at Billingsgate Fish Market, a further display of unity in the city, in this never-ending quest to usher in the radical changes that so many of us yearn for.  Power to the people indeed!

Here is a reminder of the three XR demands in the UK:

Here's their three demands in the UK according to their website:

1 Tell the truth – Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change

2 Act now – Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

3 Beyond Politics – Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice

Here is my film of a momentous week (click below):



My Experience

I have been all over central London for the past week, watching and being inspired by talks and actions and journaling and making the above film for Campfire. It feels weird to be out of it. Those central London streets where clean air was becoming the norm as we walked to and from the village hub of Trafalgar Square. The sense of love, compassion and fierce urgency all around that was spreading like a virus.

The highlight of the week for me was being part of the peoples' assembly in parliament on Tuesday, convened by XR with help from MPs such as Caroline Lucas and Clive Lewis.  A retired ex-police chief superintendent Rob Cooper gave a rousing speech and we split into groups, each other coming up with departmental proposals for government. It felt like true democracy in action and that we are really changing the landscape.  Whilst conventional politics is in chaos, it feels like we are building the future infrastructure underneath.

This groundbreaking event has hardly been reported in the mainstream media and one has to wonder why not, given that peoples and citizens assemblies are pointing the way forward as a true alternative to our broken politics. At Trafalgar Square, there was a much bigger one of Thursday and it was exciting to see so many ideas and so much passion being articulated from each team. Convening in a circle makes so much sense and offers a much more inclusive way of convening, with the emphasis on deep listening and looking out for common ground. It couldn't offer a greater contrast to the tired old Westminster outmoded ways and I'm more aware of sense from XR activists than I do whenever I tune into what's happening in parliament. 

Hearing about what is kicking off all over the world in synergy firmly gives me hope and a belief that these rebellions are opening a path to a wide-ranging revolution unheard of in my lifetime - in the way we live from day to day, how we treat each other, how we view economic theory in relation to our lifetsyle choices, in the processes of transformation towards a society that is more rooted in nature and the natural rhythms of life. We need systems that work in harmony with nature, not against it. 

I had attended the first two London rebellions, in November last year and at Easter, but this one was by far the most intense and, in my opinion, by far the most successful and far reaching in terms of starting to change the hearts and minds of many I know who were sympathetic to the cause but maybe doubted that the methods were right.

The way people have bonded has been inspirational to see and be part of. This past week really has been a model of utopian, self-organising community spirit at its best, with a huge variety of people of different backgrounds, ages and motivations coming together, defying the divided society that our politicians seem so entrenched in.

George Monbiot : Inspirational

From Twitter 

"Getting myself arrested just got a whole load easier. The police have banned all #ExtinctionRebellion protests in London. To me, this truncation of the right to protest intensifies the moral case for taking action.

On Wednesday I intend to be arrested at #ExtinctionRebellion. These are my reasons:

1. History shows that when people are prepared to jeopardise their own liberty, other people realise that they mean what they say, and take their campaigns more seriously.

2. I have urged other people to join @ExtinctionR, and many of them have been arrested. It would be wrong to encourage other people to do something I am not prepared to do.

3. As a white, middle class man with an established career, I am less vulnerable than the great majority of other people. I feel I have a moral duty to use this privilege for the sake of those without such liberty and without my voice.

4. I have had a good and fulfilling life. I must do everything in my power to ensure that other people have the same opportunity, including the people of other nations, children and the unborn. #ClimateBreakdown will deny this chance to many millions.

5. After very nearly being killed several times while working as an investigative journalist in West Papua, Brazil and East Africa, sometimes on almost suicidal missions, almost the only thing that still holds fear for me is our inaction in the face of environmental crisis.

6. When you have come within a hair's breadth of being killed by military police in north-eastern Brazil, being picked up for obstructing a road in central London is of no consequence at all. This is my duty, and I intend to fulfil it.


 

Systemic Change

What we're talking about here is not just making sure that we put the urgency of climate breakdown uppermost in people's minds, but the wider perspective that is about systemic change. Capitalism and obsessive fixation by economists on growth at all costs had led us into this mess. Ours was the first nation into the industrial revolution. We have a moral imperative to lead again and to be the first nation out.

I also have had some of the best, deepest and most open-hearted conversations I have ever had this week, with trust and hope at the centre of nearly all of them. Despite the doom and gloom of where we're at as a species and the huge challenges facing us, once we've been through the grief of fully comprehending where we're at, there is a huge catharsis that seems to take place which leads to a different - and much more purposeful and focussed mindset. 

Like many, I felt compelled to act because we are at crisis point and doing very little about it. Urgent changes need to made and the we're being betrayed by a government who, having declared a climate emergency in spring, have done virtually nothing about it. 

Frome has an incredibly strong XR community, many of whom came to our Campfire Convention at the end of August where Roger Hallam gave an emotional, heart-wrenching speech entitled 'Emergency means prison' That was a game-changer.

Activism is important because what is described as 'democracy' isn't really that. The system has to change in order to act and bring about the changes that so many of us now know need to happen as soon as possible  - and that means a much more direct input into running things rather than trusting political parties. Being polite and standing with a placard, or marching isn't enough. Rebellion and disrupting business as usual is clearly waking people up and that's what we need for there to be a chance of not destroying this beautiful planet.  Responsible activism is also infectious and we need to spread a love bubble like never before.



Points of Reference

Extinction Rebellion are as likely to reference present day politicians as they are to name check more philosophical, spiritual thinkers and writers such as Jem Bendell, Noam Chomsky, the late Polly Higgins and Mac Macartney. The latter's book 'The Children's Fire' was referenced at Tuesday's parliamentary assembly by three youngsters, who read Macartney's words to the Peoples Assembly. It seemed uncannily resonant that those hallowed institutions of governance should be resounding to this mantra, so new and fresh to many ears but so grounded in centuries of wisdom and in the teachings of indigenous elders. 

"The time has come to rekindle the Children's Fire, and dare to make this pledge"  suggested Giles Hutchins in a Resurgence magazine article in spring this year.

"The antidote to today’s malaise: the Children’s Fire – elegant in its simpli­city and pragmatism. It’s a pledge each of us can make deep in our hearts, if we dare comprehend the implications. It originates from Native American chiefs :   "No law, no decision, no commitment, no action, nothing of any kind will be permitted to go forth from this council that will harm the children, now or ever."

Hutchins pays tribute to this small, accessible book as "a portal: a way into subconscious recesses; a reverie of immense relevance to today’s malaise; a portrayal of humanity’s innate desire to live with meaning; and our search for the sacred grail, to see with new eyes.


People

So many great people are present on this mission. Not least all those who put themselves on the front line, whether that involved camping out on Whitehall yards from Downing St as Kim (who I first met at The Little Chill in July) did, or as the much respected and now retired octogenarian doctor Robin Stott, who I heard give an inspiring speech in the Planetary Health Hub entitled ‘Fair Share of Resources’.  It’s all about that isn’t it: the fair share of resources. Sharing and who decides who gets what?  Afterwards Robin told me he’s already been arrested and spent the night in Wandsworth police cells. His first experience of jail.

Robin Stott


... and this post on social media from Jenny Shackleford, carrying out some empirical research to counter our Prime Minister's typecasting of us as all 'uncooperative, nose-ringed crusty bivouacs'....

Jenny says "I was in London this week and at the City Airport action, I did a bit of research and I stood alongside a:
Journalist
Economist
Clinical psychologist (ret)
Merchant Navy Captain(ret)
Community Physio ( ret)
Stained Glass maker
Social Worker
Oil Worker ( ret)
University Lecturer ( ret)
Tree Surgeon (ret)
Carpenter
Radio Presenter
Interfaith Minister
Engineer
Artist
Electrical Engineer
Seed Producer
Sound Engineer
Film Maker_
Student
Builder
Philosopher 
Company Director
Charity Worker
Events Organiser
Scaffolder 
Call Centre Worker
Shop Worker
G.P (ret)
I.T Professional
Domestic Appliance Engineer
Language Teacher ( ret)
Engineer
Garden Designer
Osteopath
Financial Consultant
Psychotherapist
Housewife
Sub Editor
Speech and Language Therapist 
Postman
Youth Worker
I.T Manager
Shoe Maker
Archaeologist
Data Analyst 
Psychiatrist
Internal Auditor.............I could go on but if you have got this far you have probably got the idea. You too could be on this list ! We are all needed if we are to challenge business as usual and give wildlife and future generations half a chance


Dr Gail Bradbrook

No review of Extinction Rebellion's week would be complete without reference to two of the key founders. While Roger Hallam languished in jail and was unable to take part in the actions that are changing the UK at a rapid pace, of which he was so instrumental in kicking off, co-founder Gail Bradbrook (above) was in evidence around Trafalgar Square and on a blue social network doing live broadcasts from Saturday's march. Always a lucid and wide-ranging speaker (Campfire next year?), she talks here about the XR movement and the systemic changes it is already bringing about on the Democracy Now channel. 

Dr Becca Hall

Always at the centre of things as far as representing doctors at XR and a vital part of the Planteray Health Hub tent which hosted some key speakers in St James Park. You can find Becca on Campfire, where she says "I'm now on a mission in our current climate catastrophe. Trying to think of ways to engage others and influence the powerful to avoid ecopalypse."

James Brown

Partially sighted paralypian and long-time XR activist Brown won another gold medal for mounting the top of and grounding a British Airways jet sitting on the tarmac at City Airport. Brown, who gained a Bronze in the 2016 Olympics said: "This is all about the climate and ecological crisis. We're protesting against government inaction on climate and ecological breakdown. They declare a climate emergency and then do nothing about it. In fact, they go the opposite direction. He said his protest was "for my kids, for everybody's kids, for all the young people who face a horrendous future". 

Here is my photo gallery (best viewed full screen on latop / desktop) 

3 Comments

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Christopher Brown

Thank you Pete for putting this together history in the making I am up to the XR meeting tomorrow locally in response to the events in London it is going to be a long haul

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Becca Hall

Pete,
Thanks so much for this. For those of us there it reminds us why we were there, especially when, on returning home we are challenged by those continuing BAU-business as usual. You may remember John Guillebaud using this acronym and describing it as the most dangerous 3 words of the moment. He is in the photo before the rebels in Trafalgar Square giving a talk at the planetary health hub. He is heavily involved with population matters.
https://webfms-production.parkrun.com/Volunteer.aspx
For those who weren't privileged enough to be able to get to in London I hope that it gives a flavour of the incredible array of experiences. Thankyou,
Bex

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matt black

Excellent report Pete and good to see you there. So glad you suggested checking Kate Raworth. Having been a bit bored with some speeches Ive heard at XR and other actions, to hear her speak so cogently and positively was a brilliant boost, as was her student from Bham who spoke afterwards. Sorry I missed the Peoples Assembly. Still, I was at XR for quite a bit over the 10 days and it was great overall. Onwards!

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