At the beginning of last week I was in London taking part in Extinction Rebellion’s October demonstration. Here are a few of my photos from the action, alongside a column that I have written for a couple of the local papers in Cumbria.
I had some scepticism when Extinction Rebellion (XR) kicked off last year. While I was of course sympathetic to their message, I questioned some of their methods. But I have increasingly found myself unable to criticise from the sidelines. For those of us who want to see action taken to prevent the worst effects of climate breakdown, non-violent direct action is one of the only meaningful options left.
The response of the media and the public to XR has certainly been mixed. Having joined more than 70 fellow Cumbrians – many of whom were Green Party members (including Allan Todd, newly-elected Green councillor in Keswick) – for a few days last week at the start of this phase of action, I can say that emotions are equally mixed amongst the rebels. It’s important to say that very few of those participating are enjoying themselves or want to cause disruption.
A lot of the scorn poured onto activists is focused on those dancing or enjoying music. However what is almost entirely overlooked in the reporting is the very widespread sense of grief and despair. The presence of the Cumbrian contingent carried with it an emotional weight that I hadn’t anticipated. A Londoner who came to visit our site and commended the infrastructure found himself overcome with emotion and broke down in tears. The dancing, the music and the talks are organised to help combat the widespread sense of gloom and dread that would otherwise prevail.
For a significant period last Monday, I was sat on a zebra crossing next to a young physiotherapy assistant from Carlisle who had glued herself to the road, and was locked to another activist next to her. She had put herself forward as an “arrestable” and formed part of the road block so that tents and a campsite could be erected behind her.
She ended up being in this position for nine hours. I fed her curry at lunchtime. She was wearing incontinence underwear to give her some dignity. I got to know her quite well during the time we were sat together, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t her idea of a good day out.
Lord Deben, a former Conservative MP and now chair of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said that the Government’s response to the climate crisis is reminiscent of Dad’s Army. A progress report released by the CCC in July of this year stated that Britain has delivered just one of the 25 critical policies to get greenhouse gas reductions on track.
Whilst we might question their means and methods, there is no doubt that these rebels are not without a cause.
All photographs are taken by me and are licensed under CC BY 4.0