“The world is dying”. Such a broad statement, until a few months ago, irked me. It seemed to neglect the complexity of the balance between economic and climate wellbeing. It was the talk of dreadlocked hippies with little grasp on the “real world”. I used such skepticism to justify an apathetic view on the issue: I was aware of climate change, I was aware of the obscure, fabled 2o rise in global temperature, I just struggled to engage with the issue enough to make me really care. Yet as I ventured further into research on the subject, a creeping realisation of the extent of the climate crisis dawned on me. It was a rude awakening when, after attending my first “Youth Strike 4 Climate”, I realised that hyperbole on climate change is impossible.
This apparently subtle shift in attitude totally reframed my understanding of the topic. I went from “ignoring radicals” to engaging with activist’s messages. We really are on the cusp of the sixth global extinction event. These extreme messages are true to the beckoning catastrophe on the horizon, and it took the Greta Thunberg inspired youth strikes to make me realise this. I can only hope I am one of many in my generation that has had similar awakenings.
Since the first strike, I have attempted to educate myself on what changes I could make in my life. On the 7th of April, out of sheer curiosity, I attended my first Extinction Rebellion meeting in Oxford. I was cautious meeting the self-professed rebels whose peers glued their topless bodies to the viewing glass in the House of Commons during a key Brexit debate. Yet when given the opportunity to engage in conversation with the group I was surprised. They were far from stereotypical militant idealists I had been led to imagine. These were yet more people who, like myself, had realised that there was a serious problem, and furthermore, realised that they could fix it. During this meeting I had my second moment of realisation:
You can choose to not be part of the problem.
On the 15th April I took the next step and made the pilgrimage to London to join the Extinction Rebellion protests. The group called for the government to declare a climate emergency, to strive for net carbon neutrality by 2025, and for a people’s assembly to restrict lobbyists’ and large conglomerates’ access to key decisions, and allow truly benevolent action to be taken, beyond the short-sighted view provided by governments in a single term. Extinction Rebellion takes the rare stance that disruption (and resultant arrests) are unavoidable in causing widespread shifts in attitude and policy changes. They are the suffragettes of the modern day, taking action to tackle the most important issue humanity has to, or ever will, face. Since the 15th, XR have blocked key junctions across London, disrupting the travel of over 500,000 Londoners and bringing climate justice to the headlines for the first time in years.
The media attempted to demonise their actions, citing the drain on resources the protests cause, yet the group reports gaining over 3000 new members every day since protests started. It is less than ideal that non-violent disruption is necessary, yet it is not a decision taken lightly. Members have tried writing letters, staging less disruptive protests and organising surgeries with MPs to discuss the climate to no avail. This is a last resort. Protestors have been forced to take action to try to force this pressing issue onto the news agenda. It has worked.
Indeed, a revolution is happening. We finally have leaders of the climate struggle to guide reform and make the crucial changes that will ensure our future. Extinction Rebellion is leading adults out of apathy and towards new lifestyles in which the future of humanity takes precedence over short-term profits. Greta Thunberg is encouraging the next generations to take charge of their world and apply pressure to global leaders to protect their futures. Finally I, and many others, are aware that climate action is the only universal issue. The minutiae of party politics is temporary, but our impact on the planet is permanent. This has led to my final realisation: