Rebels with a Cause

Some of those taking part in the Extinction Rebellion (including Tanya Jones, left). Photo: Lauren McGlynn, @mcglynnsisters (Instagram).

In our first post of 2019 Tanya Jones underlines the urgent issue that led her, along with a whole coalition of active citizens, to take part in direct action just before Christmas.

Wherever we begin, we reach the need for climate action.  Whatever it is that we care about, climate breakdown is affecting it, and almost certainly for the very worst.

Climate change has been seen for a long time as an environmental issue, and of course it is.  Whether your deepest concern is for animals, birds, marine life, landscapes, little-known species or their habitats, both present and future are heartbreakingly bitter.  The chaos of seasons gone terribly awry, of absent or inaccessible food and breeding sites, of places that for millennia have been homes, and now are sterile and bare, of the first great extinction of recorded history, all this is reason enough for grief, anger and action.

But it isn’t only an issue for the other species with which we share the earth.  Anyone who cares about justice, who looks at our sisters and brothers with compassion and honesty, must inevitably confront the great injustice of climate breakdown.  There is scarcely an example of exploitation, of empire-building, of extractivism, appropriation or post-colonial indifference which is not exacerbated by climate chaos.  It is a commonplace now to say that those least responsible are paying the highest price, but it is no less true for being obvious. 

For some, of course, neither the mass extinction of species or the suffering and deaths of fellow humans are sufficient to provoke action.  But most people wish, at the very least, for a quiet comfortable life for themselves and their families, for sufficient food, for undisturbed shelter and a peaceful old age.  None of these can now be taken for granted, even for present adult generations, and certainly not for today’s children.  The prospect of a no-deal Brexit is rightly dreaded for the chaotic losses which it will bring to the UK.  Yet this disastrous scenario, with all its concomitant bitterness, division and scapegoating, all the opportunities seized by the unscrupulous to add more stories to their towering fortunes, will only be a localised foretaste of our future under ‘business as usual’.  There are many reasons to seek reduction of our emissions, but the most universal may be simple self-preservation.  It is only the most nihilistic, the haters of self as well as others, the tragic Midases whose fingers and minds are clogged with gold, who can look clearly at the future and not cry ‘Stop!’

Climate change was never only the business of scientists, environmentalists and green politicians.  But, with so many other priorities squabbling for space, too often it was left to them.  Now, though, with scarcely over a hundred months, at a generous estimate, in which to act, it must be the business of everyone. For business as usual is the business of death.   

Governments will not do what is needed without a clear mandate from their citizens.  The necessary changes are too radical, and the vested interests too strong.  But people cannot call upon their leaders for action if they do not know how urgent our predicament really is.  That is why I spent a damp few hours, on the Friday before Christmas, standing outside the BBC Scotland studios on the banks of the Clyde. 

Ours was part of a wider Extinction Rebellion protest, calling upon the BBC to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about climate change.  The games of inventing scientific debates where none exist, of ‘balancing’ truth and falsehood, of pretending that climate change can be overcome by small individual actions alone, all have to end.  The time for games is over; we need to be grown-ups now.  Our survival depends upon it.

Tanya Jones

1 January 2019

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