Yesterday Britain’s chancellor made his budget speech for 2018. There was no mention of climate change. No new money for clean energy, efficiency or public transport. The only environmental measure was a modest proposal around plastic packaging. Green GB Week came and went with no new announcements. Climate change might as well be invisible.
Meanwhile, Britain’s farmers face an almost unreported crisis this winter as the summer heatwave has left them with fodder shortages. A report last week found 1.2 million homes in Britain are at risk from rising seas. Across the Atlantic, the people of Florida are picking up the pieces after Hurricane Michael, the strongest storm to ever hit the state. Donald Trump denies climate change is a problem, while sending troops to the border to stop people fleeing the effects of climate change. Australia’s government continues to support coal power even as it sets up a billion dollar drought fund. Brazil just elected an extremist climate denier who plans to open up the Amazon to further exploitation, and investment in Brazil soared at the prospect.
This is how the world breaches 1.5, then 2 degrees, then 3 and 4. This is how progress crumbles, as climate change slowly erodes the gains from economic growth and development. People slip back into poverty, displacement and migration, while the countries at fault deny any responsibility and build higher walls.
There’s a steady stream of small wins of course, Canada’s carbon tax being one of the recent ones, but the response does not match the need. There is no sense of urgency, and it begs the question – how bad does it have to get before governments act? What would it take for climate change to be taken seriously?
It’s a question for the environmental movement too. If we’re serious when we say that climate change is an existential threat, are we really acting like we believe it? When we say that climate change is a matter of life and death, are we standing up for those already dying? Shouldn’t climate protest be angrier, louder, more insistent?
That’s what the protest group Extinction Rebellion are saying, and they are launching a campaign of peaceful disruption today:
On October 31st we will, in accordance with our conscience and a clear duty to our children; our communities; this nation and planet; declare a non-violent rebellion on behalf of life itself and against our criminally negligent government.
Our government’s abject failure to protect citizens and the next generations from unimaginable suffering brought about by climate breakdown and social collapse is no longer acceptable.
We cannot stand idly by and allow the ongoing destruction of all we love.
I came across Exctinction Rebellion at the Greenbelt festival this summer when someone gave me a flyer and told me about it. I wasn’t sold. I didn’t like the extreme nature of the language or the provocative graphics. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more convinced I am that the climate movement needs to find a higher gear. And so do I.
There is a rich history of nonviolent civil disobedience to draw on, including the civil rights movement, Indian independence, or anti-apartheid campaigns. It’s already happening in some places, such as fracking protests in Britain at the moment. Scaling those actions up to mass disobedience might be the only way to break through the apathy and silence.
So as this post goes live, my wife and I are at the Extinction Rebellion launch event outside parliament. If and how I get involved any further will depend on what I hear at the event, and I’ll let you know how it goes.