Taking individual action to try and make the world more sustainable is really important, because we can make a difference. I’ve been slowly adding to my sustainability belt notches over the years, beginning with vegetarianism – ok I did have a lapse last year, chicken wings (…) but I’m working towards veganism as a next step. I’ve extended my efforts deep into the realm of reuse; repairing things at home; letting my garden re-wild; installed filters on my washing machine and tap to stop the release of microfibres from clothes and to stop consuming micro-plastics in my water. I’ve also moved to buying pretty much everything I can secondhand.
All of these actions line up with my values, and the more sustainable habits I add over time, the better I feel. There’s a weird phenomenon called climate anxiety which is brought on by the impending doom of the climate catastrophe, my individual actions are a meditation that help me relieve some of that anxiety. But, by looking at the science and the cold hard facts I’ve come to believe that the best thing we can do is take up non-violent direct action to force change.
1. Time’s Running Out…
The measure I look at most is atmospheric C02 PPM – uhhh science booorriinnngggg – but stick with me!
We all know C02 is the bad guy, but what matters is how much of it is in the atmosphere. PPM stands for Parts Per Million. If we reach 450PPM, climate change is locked in, irreversible. Have a look at this graph to see how humans have made it skyrocket. Everyone talks about keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees but guess what, the chances of us achieving that are less than 1%. Time’s up, we gotta act now and my wildflower garden just isn’t going to cut it!
2. You’re not to Blame
The notion that me and you are responsible for the surge in C02 is a tiny piece of the puzzle. Of course, developed countries like ours are consuming too much. But when we look at what that consumption is made up of, we see most of it isn’t within our control. The levers of change are well and truly in the hands of Government and big business, let’s not forget!
3. The Craic
For me the protest is *the scene*. I’ve made amazing friends, learned a tonne and yes, had some serious craic. But there’s also a subtle thing that happens when you get involved in activism – you build optimistic solidarity. You start to realise that change truly is possible.
By getting to know fellow activists we start to build networks and solidarity that make our communities more resilient. Capitalism is all about ‘the me’. To solve the climate catastrophe we need radical love and solidarity, of which you can find bundles through protest.
4. System Change Demands it
Marching is crucial; petitions matter; emails are important. This typical form of protest (what we might call educational or advocacy-based) is needed, but the truth is that we’ve been doing it for decades, and it hasn’t worked. Asking nicely isn’t going to work. Applying that in how we look at protest means moving from a passive form of protest to a coercive form (this sounds radical, but stay with me). The system won’t change unless we show those in power that we will no longer accept business as usual. It’s time to stop asking politely for irreversible destruction not to happen.
5. It works
The biggest critique of direct-action forms of protest has been that they turn people off or that they don’t work. The data would show otherwise.
In the month Extinction Rebellion launched, 15% of people thought climate action was the most important issue facing us; this is now averaging around 35%. It may be correlation and not causation, but look at Extinction Rebellion Ireland’s main demand – to lower emissions 8% per year over the next decade. When announced, nobody thought it was realistic, now it’s making its way in to the programme for government (albeit early days).
The facts on climate change are hard to swallow and make for grim reading. But the greater an emergency the greater our response should be. We shouldn’t be concerned about the consequences of closing down our cities, of being arrested, or of taking direct-action when the alternative is what scientists call a ‘1-20 chance of Human Extinction’.
Future generations will surely look back at the leaders of today as criminally inept. The question we should ask, is how will they look back at me?