By Rosie Newman
The human race has brought about the sixth mass extinction, the biggest for 65 million years. We have destroyed 60 percent of life on Earth since 1970 and created a rate of global warming ten times faster than that at the end of the last ice age.
The level of ignorance and denial amongst many people is staggering, but we are nevertheless at a tipping point. Time has run out. It is said that you only need 3 percent of a population to take action for a revolution to be possible. This could either be a turning point for our species, or the beginning of the end. Incredible to think that we are intelligent enough to know how to solve the problem and yet we may be stupid enough not to. Either way, history is in the making.
On the 31st October over a thousand people gathered in Parliament Square, alongside statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Millicent Garrett Fawcett, to be a part of the Extinction Rebellion Declaration and planned civil disobedience. The declaration lays out the truth of our climate crisis and presents a call to immediate action. With a blue sky above us and an indifferent city around us, it was a surreal moment. It’s so hard to believe that anything is wrong. And yet many of us have lived with a sense of dread about the future for years, knowing this moment was coming. Finally, it’s time to face it. It really is now or never and in a weird way it’s an incredible time to be alive.
With speeches, songs and poetry from activists, journalists, TV presenters and politicians we blocked the road outside Parliament for nearly two hours in a conscious act of civil disobedience. 15 people were arrested, but a culture of mutual respect and actuated democracy was upheld throughout, which includes an unequivocal, key directive regarding non-violence. It was a simple act of love, grief and respect for all of life on Earth and it was just the beginning. Actions of civil disobedience will take place throughout November and continue indefinitely.
The Extinction Rebellion states:
“We are in the midst of an ecological crisis, while mass extinction is already happening, human extinction is a real risk.
The window for change is narrow, a matter of months, and though difficult, many of the necessary changes will make our lives better.
Government inaction is both criminally and morally negligent, it is therefore our right and duty to follow our conscience and rebel through peaceful civil disobedience.”
The Extinction Rebellion demands:
“The Government must tell the truth about the 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.
The creation of a Citizens Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.”
Project Drawdown, a comprehensive plan to reverse climate change was published last year. It demonstrates that there is still time to avert the worst of the looming disaster, but only if we act urgently, decisively and purposefully. We must treat this crisis as an emergency situation – action is urgently necessary. In the process we have the opportunity to create a benign human presence on the planet which is less frenetic, more loving, more meaningful, more connected and more beautiful.
The time for waiting for the next report, and instigating yet more research, is over. We know what is needed to solve the problem, we know how to do it, and it will cost less than the $1,570,000,000,000 global annual expenditure on arms. “Switching from fossil fuels to low-carbon sources of energy will cost $44 trillion between now and 2050”. But due to “the huge savings from reduced fossil-fuel consumption…. the world actually comes out slightly ahead: the costs of switching will be paid for in fuel savings between now and 2050.” (MIT Technology Review, May 2014)
We have reached a point where the wisdom and technology now exist to provide all the energy and waste solutions needed to ensure average standards of living can continue to improve across the globe. We can restore wildlife habitats and clean up cities. All the great advances in freedom of the last 200 years – from the abolition of slavery to votes for women, from the emancipation of India to the civil rights movement – have without exception been catalysed by a minority willing to risk arrest and even jail by highlighting injustice. We have the right to a say in the kind of future our children will live to see, and that they will live to see it. It’s not something that someone else should do, this is about all of us. It’s within reach and we are rising up to claim it.