In July, Green Party candidate and academic Rupert Read declined to appear on a BBC programme. The tweet in which he justified this, read as follows: BBC Radio wanted to have me on today to debate a climate-denier in the context of the drought/heatwave. I said NO. I told them it was a disgrace that they still give climate-deniers airtime at a time like this. I won’t be part of such charades any longer. Please RT if you agree. @GreenRupertRead
Read's contention is that giving climate-deniers airtime is a ridiculous move from the BBC, when there are more important debates about climate change; it is here, and is dangerous. This impatience is echoed by other activists, but ones that will not wait for a comfortable discussion around the pros and cons of different strategies. They are unwilling to make polite appeals to our government, when it is clearly in the pocket of big business and major polluters.
On September 25th I chaired a discussion entitled “Why Aren't We Worrying More About Global Warming?” where one of Extinction Rebellion's main activists, Roger Hallam, spoke. At this event he laid out his arguments – arguments for starting a public rebellion against the government over their climate change inaction - and then he left before the Q & A began.
Action, he explained, not words, are important in the little time we have to do something. We should not get caught in the over-analysis of the information. He painted a picture of activism as a sacrifice of personal freedom, and the importance of rule breaking to achieve ones goals. And knowing Roger a little, I can corroborate that he lives by these ideals. Here is a link to Roger's speech https://ytcropper.com/cropped/EA5bd4dc118a72b
It is easy to view the non-violent action that Roger proposed as extreme and drastic – it is. It was only a week after the talk, on October 1st, that the IPCC released their damning report: we have only 12 years to keep climate change temperatures under control: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report And this is to put widespread devastation and societal unrest into emotionless facts and figures.
I am no longer convinced that political parties of the Left have enough energy or gumption to turn us toward serious responses and solutions to climate change. Political cycles are short and politicians have even shorter memories.
Roger's walk away from the discussion, and abandonment of polite convention had a very polarising affect. It generated an emotional response – and such responses are necessary for going beyond our willingness to rationalise and normalise the impending chaos.
Whilst the positive stories are definitely something that can keep us going in the darker moments outside activism, many people around the globe are engaged in great projects that facilitate us moving to a more ecological way of living. But these are alternatives, and not the mainstream, socio-political reality.
Extinction Rebellion's method is to shock the system. They plan to do this in the coming months, starting with a big demonstration and direct action in Parliament Square, with the backing of George Monbiot https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/18/governments-no-longer-trusted-climate-change-citizens-revolt
The present moment seems terribly fragile and frightening. Even the climate change deniers seem to be keeping rather quiet. But since the IPCC report the media has returned to its regular coverage of minutiae and gossip. It is a fragile moment that we live in, but fragile moments, are ones in which the status quo is broken. How things will look from the other side of a social revolution is much harder to say. But to be climate extremist in these times is nothing but common sense.
Tom Lennard @TomLennard
Kensal and Kilburn Better 2018 @KKBetter2018
You can become involved in the necessary campaign to force politicians to account over climate change at Extinction Rebellion - https://risingup.org.uk/XR/
For a recent, short analysis of the political strategy of Left Wing politics see Graham Jones' “The Shock Doctrine of the Left” (published by Polity)