Extinction Rebellion are as much of a polarising force as they are influential, it seems.
But the climate crisis we all face, some more than others, is reaching unprecedented levels precisely because of the systems that support it. And government and structural inequalities exacerbated by those same powers are some of the biggest offenders.
Let’s not pretend that there is no difference in the way people are treated by agents of the state.
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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As a person of colour, when it comes to protesting, structural racism tends to come into play. Not only have I been kettled and assaulted by the police, I also think it’s fair to link that systemic treatment to the disproportionate impact of climate change on black people and ethnic minorities.
It’s all part and parcel of a system that values life differently, and allows governments and corporations to warm the planet to the point that scientists have run out of ways to warn us.
The question is: are we winning the fight against climate change given the campaigning success of Extinction Rebellion? In some respects, it’s not quite clear.
All credit to them, they’ve seized the national conversation, but we are in a dangerous pause phase now. Attention may be one thing, but government action is an entirely different kettle of fish, and we need to make sure that the state is just as dedicated to battling climate change as activists are.
CLIMATE CHANGE FACT: Two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef has been damaged as a result of climate change. In April 2017, it was revealed that two-thirds of Australia's Great Barrier Reef has been severely damaged by coral bleaching. This occurs when algae living within the coral tissue are expelled, usually as a result of water temperatures being too high. As a result, the coral loses its vibrant appearance, turns white and becomes weaker. Scientists say it will be hard for the damaged coral to recover.
Extinction Rebellion have smashed urgency into the debate just as they peacefully delivered a garden bridge out of Waterloo Bridge. Friends of the Earth want the same thing: to stop catastrophic climate change.
We can get to net zero – halting global temperature rises – but we have to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Emissions will have to fall to the point where they are balanced and cancelled out by what is absorbed and stored by natural processes, such as plant growth and trees.
The government are predictably way off target to meet its obligations under the climate change act, and the Paris Agreement. Friends of the Earth is of the view that we must have net zero greenhouse gases by 2045, and have looked at the scientific analysis of what needs to happen in every major sector of the economy.
Let’s join some things up: deregulation and monopoly capitalism had its ugly expression in austerity, which was devastating for individuals, but also strangled public investment in many instances. Councils’ budgets were slashed so they shed their climate officers, and zero money went in to energy efficiency programmes.
Globally, 100 companies are responsible for 71 per cent of emissions. Let’s also remember how central fossil fuel extraction is in this set-up – the government is happy to back that failing industry in this country, but falls short of empowering councils to fight climate change.
It’s brutal that for so long these truths have been belittled or ignored, so we must recognise Extinction Rebellion’s efforts, especially seeing as climate crisis has been spun as a matter of individual consumer behaviour among some politicians and faction of mainstream media.
There is great uncertainty about the specific impact of climate change on marine life (some conditions can de disadvantageous to certain species; other might be advantageous like stimulating upwelling areas for example).
We have had, for example, many requests to “debate” Emma Thompson’s support for Extinction Rebellion by taking a flight to join the cause. Granted, emissions from aviation are awful. As environmental author Naomi Klein pointed out though, it isn’t coincidental that just when climate change started to get the attention it deserved, free market capitalism was really steroiding up.
Nobody could hear scientists because fossil fuel giants shouted over them, while knowingly doing damage that raised sea levels.
Repeat with me: this is not just about consumer behaviour; we are protesting feeble government responses because it threatens our existence. Pointing out hypocrisy of personal habits has worked my entire lifetime.
Those of us – and the movement has room for lots of tactics and approaches – who want a habitable planet have looked at the science and concluded that we are in danger of a species-ending decline. And what do climate deniers say? “But where did you get your phone from, huh?”, “how can anyone really stop using petrol?”
I have assembled a handy explainer to help you out: What the IPCC report means for the Earth and how you can help beat climate change Scientists have released what can be seen as the most urgent and far-reaching call yet for world governments to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and stop global warming.
The last couple of weeks have shown a groundswell that government can’t ignore. So much so, that the Labour Party is taking note, and will force a Commons vote on declaring an environmental and climate emergency. Shock-jocks can dismiss the urgency of the matter all they like, but it’s a new dawn and we want system change.
Should the government make the right decision, I’d hope they take note of Friends of the Earth’s evidence-based answers and implement our climate action plan. It covers transport, buildings, justice, and land-use, as well as aiming for 100 per cent clean energy and stopping airport expansion. A fascinating aspect to the challenge of climate change is that the solutions are known, they aren’t deeply mysterious riddles that we still need to find answers to.
46 million people per year are currently at risk of flooding from storm surges.
If government understand that, we can win, all of us.
The deep psychological malaise is that we, in the relatively comfortable west, know this stuff: we see the headlines, read about Cyclone Idai , process that it’s absolutely awful, are sad that it killed over a thousand people and what do we do? Historically, nowhere near enough. But there is a wonderful movement taking hold, we just need to keep it going: organise collectively, get on the streets and demand the government does what’s right.
There is a fundamental and undeniable truth: It’s the system at fault, not the individuals within it. The human cost of climate change isn’t a price we can pay, but we can certainly put a stop to government inaction.