Rebels With A Cause – Vanya Marks, Oct 2019

“Get a job!”

 “You’re a hypocrite!”

 “It’s all China’s fault!”

Becoming a climate activist has been a baptism of fire and the Extinction Rebellion I joined in October was nothing short of an emotional whirlwind. Two weeks swinging between joy and hope to despair and anguish left me an empty husk at the end of it.

I could only have got through the ups and downs thanks to the group of amazing Wanstead folk who have teamed up to form Wanstead Climate Action. During the rain-soaked fortnight of protest, we laughed, we cried, we sang, we marched and mostly we tried to draw attention to the climate emergency – through peaceful means … and a little bit of civil disobedience.

For us law-abiding citizens, this wasn’t something we did lightly. But the powers that be have known about the dangers of climate change for decades and have had years to act on the multiple threats we face. These include: loss of biodiversity, species extinctions, air pollution, deforestation, melting ice caps and sea levels rising, ocean acidification, soil degradation, extreme weather changes, the list goes on. And thanks to the heroic efforts of activists like Greta Thunberg and figures like David Attenborough, these are now getting on the agenda like never before.

However, Extinction Rebellion (XR), with whom we align ourselves, believes that the government, despite Parliament announcing a climate emergency in spring, has not done anything near enough to address the problems.

According to the United Nations, global heating of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels will carry risks for nature and people – but these risks will still be less than higher temperature rises, which is why it’s such an important target. To contain warming at 1.5°C, man-made carbon dioxide emissions would need to be cut by nearly half in the next decade and reach ‘net zero’ by mid-century. UN scientists say this will need rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in land and energy use, industry, buildings, transport and cities. So big steps are urgently needed, yet the government and polluting industries are doing next to nothing.

By taking to the streets in our thousands, blocking roads around Westminster, gathering at financial institutions in the City and London City Airport plus multiple other marches and protests, XR is trying to make the government act before it’s too late. When the government isn’t taking necessary action to look after its people, we think civil disobedience becomes a duty.

So apologies Wanstead for any disruption you may have faced but that was, we hope, temporary. The unimaginably catastrophic consequences to human, and all, life on this planet could be permanent and irreversible. So let’s keep up the pressure, because there’s still hope to save some of it, if we act now.

Right, back to my day job because, yes, I’ve got one.

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