Heading for Extinction Part II
In part one of this two-part post based on a recent lunch n’ learn session delivered to Manifesto by Extinction Rebellion, I somewhat briefly (yes it could have been longer!) explained our climate problem. But perhaps more important than the fact of our climate crisis is what we do about it. What action can people take to help secure a future for humans on this planet? What has already been done, what has succeeded, and what requires more support to be successful?
What have we tried?
Locally there have been changes using the standard methods: political and legal campaigning, and encouraging action at an individual level, like recycling.
Unfortunately though, whilst politicians will make a nod towards the environmental emergency, there is in fact very little interest in the subject and much that is detrimental in their decisions and actions:
- Scrapped renewable energy schemes;
- Voted for the expansion of Heathrow Airport;
- Given go-ahead to fracking in communities that voted against it;
- Said they will ban the sales of fossil-fuel cars, but not until 2040.
Finally, our independent Climate Change Committee has warned we’re not on track to meet the 2C global temperature limit.
Whilst it’s great that more people recycle, take public transport, cycle, or have switched diets to become vegan, it’s unfortunately not enough. And whilst people think that it is enough, we’re not doing what we need to actually save our futures. Since we became aware enough to form the IPCC, carbon dioxide concentrations have increased further.
Image sourced from Extinction Rebellion
Why hasn’t it worked?
Because we have structural problems. One being the short-termism of our current version of democracy. The fatal flaw: every few years the government ask us, the public, “Will you vote us back in again?” This means pleasing people in the short term. And, unfortunately, the kind of change which helps us secure a future in the long term means economic pain in the short-term, and that’s a vote killer .
The second problem is capitalism. Can you put a price on your family’s future? Because under the current paradigm in which we trade, this is not considered. Whilst we harmoniously trade in oil, gas, gold and crops, it won’t matter if our future doesn’t contain food, water and a stable climate.
Finally, the biggest problem is that we need every human to take action in order to stop carbon emissions. It’s great to see more people making changes to their lifestyles to support the climate, but until there are (for example) clean solutions to things like transport, people will continue to use their cars – because everyone else is. Yes, there are increasing options for electric cars, but until they’re more affordable, and we have better charging facilities, few people are going to have access to these.
Change the rules
“There are no rules for keeping fossil fuels in the ground so we cannot win this by playing by the rules.” – Greta Thunberg
I’m sure many of us followed the dividing news about the Autumn protests from Extinction Rebellion in London. Civil Resistance, or non-violent direct action (NVDA), is their way of flouting the rules, rules which they believe need to be changed to have any chance of fighting this. Whether or not you support the way they address the climate emergency, you can understand that if they sit peacefully in groups of two, nobody will notice them, let alone hear their concerns.
Civil Resistance has been used successfully many times in the past:
Gandhi – organised Indian rebellion against British rule.
Rosa Parks – refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person and triggered the American Civil Rights movement.
Martin Luther King – organised the movement and mobilised huge numbers of Americans to force changes to racist laws.
These people are regarded as heroes now, but at the time were often vilified for their law-breaking and disruptiveness – just like those who were arrested in the Extinction Rebellion Autumn protest.
What do Extinction Rebellion want?
These are Extinction Rebellion’s demands:
- Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025.
- Government must create, and be led by the decisions of, a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice.
The last might introduce a new concept for some readers, so here’s a definition of a citizens’ assembly taken from the Parliament website:
“A citizens’ assembly is a group of people who are brought together to discuss an issue or issues, and reach a conclusion about what they think should happen. The people who take part are chosen so they reflect the wider population – in terms of demographics (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, social class) and sometimes relevant attitudes (e.g. preferences for a small or large state).”
Image sourced from Extinction Rebellion
A Citizen’s Assembly will have the ability to take the long view. They will be free from corporate influences and representative of the population. This was used in Ireland to deliberate the Eighth Amendment, which banned abortion in almost all circumstances. Over the course of six months members were provided with information on the topic, heard from 25 experts, and reviewed 300 submissions from members of the public and interest groups.
“Despite increasing pressure for change, politicians of all stripes had been reluctant to engage with the issue of abortion directly and to place it firmly on the political and legislative agenda.
“But it only took 99 ordinary citizens to help break years of political deadlock and reach a consensus on this highly polarising issue.”
How can you contribute?
The Extinction Rebellion protests were high impact in terms of garnering media attention and mobilising people who until now had been reluctant to act, but you don’t have to be an ‘arrestable’ to support the fight against climate destruction and ecological injustice. Visit the Extinction Rebellion website to find out how to act under the XR banner, including everything from joining an action without the risk of getting arrested to joining a choir to producing art for protests. But there are also many charities supporting the cause in different ways. And many other organisations which provide the opportunity to meet and support other talented people who care about the future of their children, and the future of our planet.
Whilst it’s crucial to keep applying pressure on governments and organisations to lead and take responsibility for their part, it’s important to educate ourselves about solutions to this crisis and take action individually to help everyone move in the right direction.
When your children, or grandchildren ask what you did to help secure their future on the earth, what do you want to be able to say?