Court Statements Selection 3
These statements were written by XR rebels who took part in non-violent civil disobedience during 2019 and 2020 and were charged with a criminal offence. They were read aloud at their court hearings, almost always by the defendants themselves although during the Covid-19 pandemic some were read by a solicitor or by the court clerk. In legal terms they are statements of mitigation but the writers’ objective was primarily to explain to the court, in their own words, why they did what they did. They are individual expressions of the desperate urgency of the climate crisis.
The statements included below are anonymised and not in chronological order. They represent a small proportion of the total: if anyone whose statement is not included would be willing to share it, please send it to email@example.com.
I am a 66-year old retired cancer research scientist, committed to public service, who has never broken the law before. Now I find myself balancing two crimes. One is obstruction of a highway. The other is obedience to a state that places my children and grandchild in grave danger by failing to safeguard the natural world we all depend on for survival.
In June 2018, the Committee on Climate Change advised the Government that it would track 25 headline policy actions needed to tackle climate change in the year ahead. In June 2019, four months before the highway obstruction took place, they reported that only one of these key policies had been delivered by Government (reference below).
In October 2019, when I obstructed a highway as a member of Extinction Rebellion, please ask yourself whether I would have any good reason to expect that this government would safeguard the future for my, or anyone else’s, children?
My crime of obstructing a highway is a direct consequence of the Government’s crime of putting my descendants in danger through negligence.
Should I have adopted other ways of attempting to remedy the Government’s failures? They take too much time, and delay itself is ramping up the danger. Our precious support system – our air and water and soil – is being trashed and we do not know whether we can rescue it. At current rates of emissions we have less than 10 years before we lock the planet into a trajectory that will lead to catastrophic levels of heat. I cannot, without disgrace, be associated with laws that privilege those alive today over our descendants. I had to take a stand, albeit this small thing, against the UK Government, which is, even at this moment, continuing to deliver a poisoned world to my children. If the Government requires me, through obedience, to be an agent of injustice to my children, then I must break the law.
I plead guilty of obstructing a highway. I plead not guilty of total obedience to a state that fails to safeguard my children. Fellow earthlings, however you judge me, you know in your hearts which is the greater offence.
On 8th October 2019 I was arrested. For sitting in the road. I was causing an obstruction to the highway. Strangely sitting peacefully in the road is a criminal offence. So yes, I did break that law and I then spent 15 hours in a police cell. As a Conscientious Earth Protector, I believe that it is my human right to act according to my conscience, so long as I am not harming or endangering others. I believe that the real crime is the arrogance, and greed of the huge global corporations that continue exploiting the Earth and its resources in the full knowledge of the harm they are causing. Every single day. All around the world. Why haven’t they been arrested? Why haven’t they had to give up their liberty? So because of their complete lack of respect for our home, the Earth, and total disregard for humans and biodiversity, I was arrested, for peacefully sitting on the road. The letters, petitions and strikes have had no effect. It would appear that trying to save the planet is a crime but deliberately destroying it isn’t. I’m sorry but I am very confused. This is the law but is it a just law?
As a child my parents actively encouraged me to respect the world around me and so I grew up being fascinated by the beauty of the Earth and appreciating all the wonders it had to offer. I had a particular interest in the animal kingdom. Thankfully this stayed with me and I passed this interest on to my own children. It is now incredibly painful watching the deliberate destruction and rape of the Earth which I love and is our home. I am worried that there won’t be very much left to pass on to our future generations. It gives me nightmares to know that my grandchildren might not get to see the wonders that I took for granted as a child. Out of desperation and as a way of coping I have written a book for my family that is called My Book of Hope. In it I have included photos and information of my family’s particular favourite species of animals and plants. I am really hoping and willing that most of them will still be around when someone in the future looks at them. In October 2019 and at this moment I am not hopeful.
We are leaving our future generations an unforgivable mess and because of this I feel strongly that it is my duty to fight for a planet that is habitable for them.
Six months ago the UK government declared a climate emergency. Unfortunately that is as far as they got. There has been no action. There has been no attempt to meet the measures agreed at the Paris Climate Summit.
I felt the need to protest because the majority of the public are unaware of the perils of the climate emergency. The planet and humans are in terrible danger, someone needs to inform them, even though it isn't my responsibility. So I sat down in the road to protest with a clear conscience. I sat down for all the people who are currently struggling and suffering through the terrible hardships caused by human made climate change. I sat down for the forests and oceans that are deliberately being destroyed. I sat down for all the innocent species that could soon be extinct. And I sat down for the survival of our beautiful planet. I sat down because I want climate justice. For everyone and everything.
I want to be able to look future generations in the eye and say that I did all that was necessary to try to stop the worst of the climate disaster. So for the rest of my life I will continue to rebel as long as it’s needed. Extinction is forever and for me this can not and must not be an option!
I am writing to plead guilty to the charge of obstructing the public highway on the afternoon of 7th October, 2019. I would respectfully request that the court grant me this opportunity, in my absence, to briefly explain my actions. Firstly, I must offer the correction that the offence did not take place on Lambeth Bridge, as stated in the charge, but on Millbank. I would also add that no vehicles were prevented from moving along the highway by my action as this section of road had already been made inaccessible by nearby police cordons, and the presence of several hundred protestors, prior to my arrival at Millbank.
Secondly, I wish to explain that my participation in the Extinction Rebellion protests of 7th October 2019 was a matter of conscience. I joined with thousands of other peaceful protestors, in central London, because I am a father of two young daughters, and I am deeply concerned at the global climate emergency. Like every parent, I hope my children will be able to live long and fulfilling lives. But wherever they choose to live in the world, my kids - and all of their peers - will have to grapple with the legacy of climate change and biodiversity loss.
That's a certainty because climate change is already well underway. We see it unfolding dramatically in Australia's wildfire season and in the diminishing Arctic sea ice. We have solid scientific consensus on the human processes causing climate change and the disastrous impacts > it will unleash on millions of species. We know that we need to achieve net zero carbon in the next few years - not in the next few decades - in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. And we know that we need to cease our unsustainably extractive approach to the natural world where we have inflicted ecocide in the name of 'development'.
What we lack is a political consensus on how to change our ways. Crucially, we also lack time. It is therefore entirely right to talk of a global climate emergency. And it is not just right, but necessary, for responsible citizens to demand radical action to address this emergency, and to express those demands via means other than the ballot box in order to focus the attention of our politicians quickly enough.
In this context, I sat down on the public highway, at Millbank, for a few minutes, as part of a peaceful protest, while Police attempted to move protestors on. I remained on the highway, without offering any resistance, when asked to leave by a Police officer. I did so grateful to be a citizen of a pluralistic society in which democratic rights, including the right to lawfully protest, are valued and protected. But I also did so knowing that this civil right, which I was exercising, had been hard won by past generations.
Perhaps it would now be tempting to imagine, as a kind of noble parallel, that if we all collaborate decisively, we can win future generations the right to live in a biodiverse world, free from the fears and shackles of runaway climate chaos, with the world's beauty still intact.
But actually, that right isn't ours to give. Future generations have that right already. The question for our generation is whether we want to be remembered for having denied them that right. And if the answer to that question is 'No', then the next question has to be: 'So, what will you do about it?' I chose to sit down, briefly, on a road in central London, on 7th October, 2019.
I would like to finish by acknowledging the inconvenience that the protests caused to many people. Many thanks for the court's time.
I am sorry I am unable to attend the court hearing but to travel to London and then on London Transport is too risky for me as I am in a high risk group with regard to covid infection. That is also one of the reasons I have decided to no longer plead not guilty as I cannot attend court and the covid danger is likely to be still present at any trial in 2021.
I am a 70 year old married man with 2 daughters and 2 young grandsons and I decided to take action to protect them and their futures because of the lack of action by the Government to combat the climate emergency within a timescale which scientists tell us require an immediate and robust response. To me the Government is breaching the social contract to protect its citizens.
I am also a registered Earth Protector in law and possess a Timestamping Certificate and believe we have a moral duty to protect the earth, our communities and that this should be reflected in law.
I have a first and Masters Degree and have spend a career in Social work, including much work with children and child protection which had included latterly both senior management and child protection training with public sector managers at all levels including senior police officers and magistrates. I have been a law abiding citizen and my commitment to protecting children remains strong.
In October 2019 my wife and I had gone to London to protest with Extinction Rebellion and during this time I attended a meeting where I heard about the proposed developments at City Airport, including a new terminus and development the size of 11 football pitches, quadrupling the size of the airport and adding 110 flights a day! When I went to the airport on 10th October I arrived on my own and joined a group of protestors who were singing outside the public entrance and exit door. I was also affected by a talk by a local resident who lived about 300 yards away who talked about the impact of the current airport on her family and hundreds of other residents. The impact of another 110 flights a day, a new total of 151,000 flights a year, on those residents’ physical and mental health was to me unimaginable.
When the group I had joined started to walk around the car park I stayed with them and eventually sat down. Then I was arrested.
I’m aware that my protect action caused some bus passengers a few minutes delay but I felt that the disturbance caused by my actions was hardly a drop in the ocean compared to the thousands of tons of carbon emissions generated by the extra 40,000 flights a year that the new proposals would create. As if the impact of high levels of flying on global warming, rising seas, famine and drought wasn’t more than enough!
I was heartened to hear that in February 2020 the Appeal Court ruled that proposed 3rd runway at Heathrow was illegal as it was inconsistent with the Government’s commitment under the Paris Agreement. In August 2020 work on the new terminus at City Airport was paused indefinitely.
The actions by those of us in Extinction Rebellion have brought increased awareness of the climate catastrophe we are all facing and morally I feel that I could do nothing but join in with non violent direct action and exercise my right to protest.
If the court considers it appropriate I am happy to comply with a conditional discharge and any costs the court may impose.
I would like to explain the reasons why I am taking up your time today. On 15th October 2019 I sat down in the road at Millbank and refused to move until physically moved by the police. This action was not pre-meditated – I had no intention of getting arrested in London or anywhere else – but it was the culmination of many years of frustration at the inaction of UK governments and industry on the greatest challenge in our human history: climate change.
Why do I care about climate change? Why do you care (and I’m sure you do)? Studies predict that because of it, one third of all plant and animal species could become extinct by 2070. I am in awe of the beauty and complexity of our natural world and think it is worth protecting. It’s not an abstract thing: I have read historic accounts of British rivers teaming with fish and eels, clouds of butterflies, moths and dragonflies over ponds and hay meadows, the songs of turtle doves and nightingales. What a meagre and miserable existence for us and our offspring if that beauty, already diminished by industrial agriculture and urbanisation, disappears altogether with climate change: gone, perhaps, like the cuckoo, whose numbers in the UK have dropped by almost 50% over the last 20 years. We are part of nature and part of the complex biological system that allows life to flourish. We don’t yet fully understand it, we know we can’t function without it, yet we are willing to destroy it.
Climate change is happening now – we can see it here in the UK with our changing weather patterns and disappearing coastline, and overseas in countries such as Tuvalu, where their island home is being subsumed by waves. For those living at the margins of possible existence – on the edge of the deserts where without rainfall the crops will fail, or in the flood plains of Bangladesh at the mercy of rising sea levels, our addiction to oil will take their land and future from them. Without taking substantial and immediate action we know that climate change will cause floods, storms, drought, erosion, crop failure, loss of land and mass migration. Millions of people will die –far more than from Covid19 – and others will have to fight for the resources to keep themselves alive.
The UK government declared a climate emergency, so where is the emergency action? We have seen with the COVID19 pandemic just how much is achievable, and how much change the public will accept, if government is seen to be following scientific advice and
if the media report it. The continued low-level focus, business-as-usual approach and empty promises on climate change are nothing short of criminal.
It seems to me that what I have written above is stating the obvious, so I am baffled as to why urgent action isn’t being taken.
I am an active member of my local community and am happy to step up and take responsibility where there is a need. I have been a town councillor, a volunteer driver, I have organised raffles and baked cakes for good causes, I visit elderly neighbours and organise litter picks. I have a respect for the law and our justice system. I believe in being part of the change that we want to see. I have worked in sustainability and renewable energy for over 20 years, and in my home and work life have tried hard to tread lightly on the earth and help others do the same. I have signed petitions, written to MPs, gone on marches, cycled to conferences, shared on social-media, fundraised and donated money, but still we are on course for a catastrophic rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Shouldn’t we all be fighting tooth and nail to make the changes required?
My actions on that day at Millbank were my attempt to bring attention to the climate crisis. I wasn’t fighting tooth and nail, I took part in a small, respectful, peaceful action, using my body where I felt all my other options had failed. It was of no benefit to me personally and was purely motivated from my concern for our future. At 53 years of age I feel I must take responsibility for the actions of my generation and their impact on those younger than me. Although I appreciate that it inconvenienced people, I feel it would have been irresponsible of me not to have taken action on that day.
I’m a 68 year old grandmother and I have never broken the law before. I did so deliberately on Oct 8 last year because I don’t know how else to make my voice heard. I’m also a writer who has tried to find more appropriate channels to raise awareness about the climate emergency (fiction, drama, journalism) but sadly none of these has the power to influence government policy.
Parliament declared a climate emergency in May 2019. Science tells us the earth is getting warmer: the ice caps are melting and we are seeing devastating fires and floods across the globe. There are mass migrations of people from lands which no longer support farming. Species of animals, insects and plants are becoming extinct on a daily basis. On prime time television, David Attenborough demonstrates the science and its heart-breaking consequences in a way that everyone can understand. Polls show the majority of people in Britain are anxious about the climate emergency, but feel helpless to effect any changes.
Yet our government continues to subsidise fossil fuels; to build roads and encourage car use; to permit the destruction of ancient woodlands. There is no demand that new buildings should be carbon neutral; the scheme for retro-fitting older housing stock is woefully dysfunctional. There are illegal levels of air pollution in most of our cities, directly harming the brains and lungs of our children, yet there are no prosecutions.
Like many members of Extinction Rebellion, I feel the channels of conventional protest have been exhausted. I have marched, petitioned, begged my MP, campaigned, written, demonstrated – all to no effect. Non-violent direct action worked, eventually, for the Civil Rights movement; I hope it may do the same here.
I apologise to the police, who treated me kindly and fairly. I’m sorry that they are obliged to waste their time removing peaceful protestors from the streets, at the behest of a government which appears to be too interested in business as usual, to take on board the urgent policy shifts which are needed. Passing the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill would be the first step towards this.
I broke the law in order to try to prevent a greater harm, ecocide, the mass extinction of species on earth. If ecocide were made a crime in law, as many of us believe it should be, then it would be clear that our government is guilty of far greater crimes than mine.
To the charge of wilfully obstructing the free passage along a highway, namely Trafalgar Square, on the 7 October 2019 I plead guilty.
As I was being carried away from Trafalgar Square by four police officers on that rainy day in October, when really all I wanted to do was stay at home with a cup of tea and a packet of hob nobs, my wife was carrying our baby. She was six weeks pregnant and the unborn life inside her – our lad; we had a boy – was a motivating factor in my decision to plonk myself in the road and refuse to budge. Do we not all want better for our children?
I don’t mind admitting that despite the joyous news that my wife was expecting our first child, I found myself being hounded by the black dog of depression. The unfolding climate crisis to which most people seemed ambivalent, and the lack of meaningful action being taken to avert it by those monopolising the levers of power, rendered me despondent and dejected. And I was bringing a child into this.
Extinction Rebellion’s rallying cry for radical change – its genial anarchy and sense of urgency – fell on fertile ground, then, and so I slipped from depression into civil disobedience. Marching with other people who shared my concerns empowered me and made me feel less alone. My spirits lifted. In fact, I was buzzing by the time the door slammed shut on the riot van and I was driven off sirens blaring through London. I suppose we all have our ways of taking back control.
You will likely disagree with Extinction Rebellion’s tactics. I too am opposed to some of the actions carried out in its name. I did not, for instance, share some members’ enthusiasm for Bostiking themselves to low-carbon forms of transport in a working-class East London neighbourhood. I dare say you are also weary of having your already-gridlocked courts blocked by people who are mostly guilty of caring.
But whatever you think of Extinction Rebellion, it has – like the school strikers and the Black Lives Matter protesters, who represent the people most likely to be disproportionately affected by climate change – injected a necessary urgency into the debate about climate justice and will be looked upon by history more favourably than the heel draggers and the business-as-usual nihilists bent on profiting from the creation of hostile environments.
Extinction Rebellion’s demands may seem radical to you, but scientists have warned us for decades that radical change is needed if we are to avert runaway climate change. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must listen to scientists, not sideline them. It is the men and women in white coats who warned us about pandemics like this one and it is they who continue to sound the alarm about the unfolding climate crisis – an alarm that all too often falls on deaf ears.
If sitting in the road and refusing to budge helps those alarm bells ring a little louder, and if it enables concerned citizens like me to have their voices heard – for you are listening to me – what pragmatist could argue against that being a sage course of action? And what son could look his father in the eye one day and not feel proud?
Extinction Rebellion protesters have been described by politicians and journalists as extremist anarchists and jobless hippies, as if we revel in the disruption we have caused. I don’t recognise that description, as applied either to myself or to my fellow protesters. I have been a law-abiding citizen all my life. As a lecturer and tutor in philosophy I teach and write about and have defended the legitimacy of the state and its law. I take seriously my duties as a citizen, as a colleague, as a teacher, as a member of my community, and as a father. I haven’t revelled in disrupting people. On the contrary, I have found it an enormous strain, and it has carried significant costs for me, quite apart from this prosecution, that I would much rather have avoided. I did not take the actions that gave rise to these cases lightly.
Protesters have also been described as gullible, or as puppets of vested interests. I don’t recognise that description either. On the contrary, after I had heard the claims made by Extinction Rebellion, I felt I could not in good conscience repeat them or engage in civil disobedience myself until I had verified them, for they were so momentous that it would have been unforgivable to take them on trust alone. I believe in truth and truthfulness and the scepticism that serves them. Indeed, these values define my career. So I read reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the World Bank, the Committee on Climate Change, the World Meteorological Organisation, NASA, and many others. I read scientific papers. I talked to climate scientists. I was no one’s puppet and no one’s dupe.
Protesters have also been described as alarmist. That is another description I don’t recognise. The science was and is clear and it is devastating. We have been on a trajectory that exposes millions of people to deadly heat, drought, storms, floods, water scarcity, and crop failures, and we have been on that trajectory, knowing where it was heading, for decades. Even in the past week we have heard that glaciers are melting in line with the IPCC’s worst-case scenarios. We have been hacking down, digging up, paving over, and polluting the natural world at an ever-accelerating rate, watching wildlife populations plummet, driving species to the edge of extinction, and destroying the very natural life support systems we will need all the more in an overheating world. Yet we are betting on carbon capture technologies that have never been shown to work at the necessary scale and the availability of an area twice the size of India to grow bioenergy crops in.
And that’s just to give us a 50–50 chance of staying below 1.5ºC of warming — which isn’t a safe level anyway. We are not even living up to the little we promised in making that bet, according to our own Government advisors. The UK has broken most of its biodiversity treaty obligations, and the world has missed every biodiversity target that it has set in the last 20 years. Scientists agree that the sixth mass extinction has begun, the first since the dinosaurs. And we are driving it. This is not alarmism, but a clear-eyed assessment of the overwhelming evidence — an assessment, I would add, whose import is increasingly recognised and endorsed by political leaders. I submit that this recognition and endorsement is not wholly unrelated to the protests in which I took part.
So I don’t recognise any of these descriptions. But I do recognise this description: I am someone who cares about the climate and environment and about the millions of people whose lives and livelihoods depend on their protection. I am someone who voted Green and wrote letters to MPs and councillors and signed petitions and avoided flying and bought local and stopped driving and switched energy supplier and donated to environmental charities — all to no effect. I was a child who saw hedgehogs in the garden and seven or eight butterflies on our suburban buddleia bush on a summer’s day and hundreds of insects on the windscreen of our car, and now I am a father whose nature-loving children have never seen a hedgehog or sped through clouds of insects and who come running to see even a single red admiral on a suburban buddleia.
I desperately wish to conserve a hospitable world of abundant and diverse wildlife, of lapwings and hedgehogs and bees and butterflies at home and whales and orang-utans and turtles and tree frogs abroad, for my children and all their generation to grow up into. I don’t want to bequeath to them a world of climate-driven mass suffering and shortage and irrevocable damage and a belated sense of the enormity of what has been lost. And if that is what is going to be bequeathed to them — as it seemed it would be at the time I took these actions and may still be, despite the warmer words of today’s governments — then I want to be able to look them in the eye and say that I tried my best to stop it.
Like every other protester, I did this out of a kind of despairing love, and I did it all utterly peacefully and respectfully. I am well aware of the privilege that allowed me to feel able to do it, and that gives me the self-confidence to speak to the court for myself today. About that I can only say that I have tried to use that privilege for the good of others, and indeed that is why I took the actions that have brought me before the court today.
I would like to explain to the court why I chose to join the XR Action at the Home Office and to do that I would like to start by telling you a bit about myself.
I graduated from the Goldsmiths College Textiles course with a First Class Honours degree into deep recession so after a year of working as an office temp, and being told that I was either over or under qualified for the jobs I applied for I decided to do a vocational Information Analysis Masters degree. Following this training I worked as a researcher for global financial services companies. Later I retrained again by doing a Therapeutic Counselling MA for which I got a merit mark.
I am a person who cares deeply for others. Over the years I worked for charities that supported homeless people, Category A prisoners and charities that supported vulnerable people in the community. Most of my counselling work was done with people living with a cancer diagnosis.
I was aware of climate change and made donations to Greenpeace and Friend of the Earth for a long time. I assumed that climate change activism was for the people that had the skills to engage with climate change, in the way that I had the skills needed to support people struggling with stress and mental health challenges.
My husband has been working in the electricity industry for 26 year, specialising in how electricity network companies should respond to climate change. One of the scariest moments on my life was when I looked over his shoulder at the pack he was working on and saw that the industry moved from speaking about electricity networks resiliency to damage mitigation.
The Extinction Rebellion 2018 action got my attention and I realised that despite years of education, sharing my life with someone that explores the implications of climate change for the electricity industry and engaging with the news on a regular basis I somehow managed to not notice the truth about the climate emergency. What I woke up to is very scary.
I am not the only one in this situation. Justin Lewis, Professor of Communication at Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University explored the Extinction Rebellion effect. The full calculation is included in the evidence pack. The summary is that:
- Prior to Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg’s emergence into the public domain “At the beginning of 2019 decades of research, reports and summits had failed to create a decisive shift in the way media or political agendas related to the climate emergency”.
- Extinction Rebellion’s April 2019 London actions marks a tidal shift in the way the media report on the climate emergency with the use of the terms climate-crisis and climate-emergency rising significantly.
Extinction Rebellion’s actions are also mirrored in an ever-increasing number of climate emergency declarations by local authorities and the UK Government.
Looking at this information, I mostly feel angry because climate change, as was then, should have been addressed earlier and it should have been done when the government passed the Climate Change Act in 2008 with near unanimous support of all MPs, regardless of party affiliation. I, and many others like me, should not have had to go through the agonising process of arriving at the conclusion that the only option left to us to raise the alarm was to break the law.
Reading reports written by climate scientist and the governments’ own Committee on Climate Change I learnt that if we do not address the climate emergency immediately, this amazing project we call civilisation will be significantly and irrevocably diminished.
As far as I can tell the government knows many UK citizens are not aware of what the climate emergency means.
- A September 2020 Department for Business, Energy & Industry Strategy Public Attitude Tracker showed 30% of UK Public were not aware of the concept of Net Zero and only 5% of UK public know a lot about it.
- In a speech to the Carbon Capture and Storage Association’s annual conference Kwasi Kwateng, (then) UK Energy Minister, said that he thinks the majority of people are “fairly Apathetic” about Carbon Capture utilisation and storage.
At the same time, an October 2020 Ofgem report titled The Role of the Consumer in Achieving Net Zero says:
“the Committee for Climate Change estimates that 62% of the actions required will involve some element of societal or behavioural change. These include changes to the way we heat our homes and power our vehicles.”
And the Climate Change Committee’s December 2020 report says:
“More than ever before, future emissions reductions will require people to be actively involved. This need not entail sacrifices. Many people can make low-carbon choices, about how they travel, how they heat their homes, what they buy and what they eat. The experience of the UK Climate Assembly shows that if people understand what is needed and why, if they have options and can be involved in decision-making processes, they will support the transition to Net Zero.”
These days I am one of the 5% that knows a lot about net zero. We insulated our house with 5-inch insulation-backed plaster boards, placed solar on the roof, changed from oil heating to pellet boiler heating and finally, got an electric car. All of these are actually followed by significant adjustments. Installing 5-inch insulation backed plaster boards is incredibly dusty and you end up with smaller rooms. Driving electric means one needs to plan in advance and add significant charging time to one’s journey. But it is a small sacrifice compared with the guilt of leaving the generations that will come after me an inhospitable earth.
I believe it is the government’s responsibility to educate the public. To lay out the options clearly and truthfully. So I think asking the government to tell the truth and to behave as if the truth is true is reasonable. To do the same as was done before when governments put money into educating people about the importance of car safety-belts and the harm caused by smoking.
But instead, we find ourselves with a Conservative MP advising his supporters to lie. (and here). And Policing Minister Kit Malthouse MP saying “Science has solved all of humanities problems over the decades, and I am sure it will solve climate change just the same”.
Science is indeed very clear about what needs to be done to solve the climate change problem with existing technology. Science repeatedly says so in its reports, including the UK’s Climate Change Committee, whose work government pays for and chooses to ignore. The problem is that MPs, like Kit Malthouse, choose to ignore science’s advice.
Because nothing much was done on the climate change front, it is now an extremely urgent climate emergency.
In a speech titled ‘adapting to 4°C of global warming” given on the 13th of October 2020 Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency said:
“I hope we get our act together in this “climate decade” so we are only heading for a 1.5 degree world, but the economic analysis suggests we’re heading for a 3.9 degree world.”
If 3.9 world sounds a bit abstract, or maybe 3.9 does not sound like a lot. Here is an example of what it means.
The executive summary of a research report titled A Changing Climate: Exploring the Implications of Climate Change for UK Defence and Security, commissioned by the MOD in November 2019 starts with an explanation of what is happening and what is likely to happen.
“This study explores the effects of climate change on UK defence and security. Temperatures have been rising across the globe since the 1950x. This trend is expected to continue and temperatures are predicted to increase by 2.3-3.5C by 2100, despite the 2016 Paris Agreement commitment to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C. Floods, heavy rainfall, droughts, heatwaves, storms, hurricanes and other extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent in the future.
In the UK, flooding is expected to be one of the most pressing climate change risks to people, communities and buildings over the next five years, and rising temperatures could also induce heat-related deaths and the overheating of military installations, homes, care homes, offices, schools and prisons.”
In this report climate change is presented as holding opportunities for the Ministry of Defence.
The UK’s governing and policy making bodies know climate change is real but for some reason that is a complete mystery to me they do not make an effort to educate the public about what climate change means. I am so full of pain and fear, thinking about schools, care-homes and prisons overheating. I cannot imagine a chain of events that starts with the overheating of institutional buildings and ends with good outcomes. When people speak about the climate emergency being a threat to civilization, this is what they point to. To the fact that the institutions of civilisation will not be able to function. To the fact that people will be faced with an inhospitable environment so their fight of flight response will be on red alert. Most of us will become grumpy, we will become impatient and turn to verbal and physical violence.
One of the first presentations I listened to was Dr Aaron Thierry’s 2017 talk ‘The Brutal Logic of Climate Change’. Two slides jumped at me and are etched in my mind. They became a constant reminder to stay engaged with this campaign to raise the alarms, to wake everybody up. This is despite repeat please from my introvert Self to retreat into the background and let things slide.
The Impact of a Global Temperature rise of 4C (16min12sec in) and Projection of extreme high temperatures (17min26sec)
When I look at these slides I see millions of people on the move. When you look at slide 2 you can see how the band of heat grows, and eventually covers the whole of Italy. That is a hell of a lot of refugees on the move.
I look at this and I see suffering. I see the suffering of the people who have had to leave their homes behind because the land is no longer habitable for humans. And I see the suffering of people here, how inevitably we will have to harden our hearts and turn to violence to protect ourselves from competition for an ever increasing scarcity of resources. The research paper I cited earlier repeatedly talks about climate change as an opportunity for the Ministry of Defence which somehow makes doing nothing sounds OK.
And it is happening already. Here, in the UK.
The first few British people have already been singled out for climate refugee status. In 2013 Gwynedd council decided to decommission the village of Fairbourne. A May 2019 Guardian article says: “the residents of Fairbourne are not expected to receive any compensation for the loss of their homes, and resettlement plans are unclear.” When someone becomes a refugee they become transparent and everybody else turns their back on them. That is how we treat refugees. We assume it will happen to someone else and we avert our gaze.
I found it very hard to break the law but I had no choice. As Professor Lewis’s research shows, so far, nothing else worked to raise the alarm as well as joining Extinctions Rebellion’s actions.
I decided to break the law, with great sadness and many misgivings, after I listened to experts and scientists speak about their findings. Through my reading I realised that without urgent action climate change and ecological breakdown will pass a point of no return.
The language of those reports, written by scientists, is reserved and measured. It is not the language of campaigns or the exaggeration of talk-show hosts. For example the The Sixth Carbon Budget: The UK’s path to Net Zero, December 2020, paid for by the UK Government, says, in the most subtle language that we need action.
“The pace of our recommended emissions path tells an important story about what must follow and what has gone before. We don’t reach Net Zero simply by wishing it.”
Still, even in those measured tones the devastating consequences facing civilisation are hard to face. At least, I find it hard to engage with the information – I find it is really scary. I completely understand why, given the option, most citizens choose to turn away and engaging with lighter issues. I’ve had these conversations with myself many times – I tell myself that I did my bit and I can rest back now. Or that I did my bit but it is too late so I can give up. But I believe that given the option, given the information, the majority of humans living today will want to leave their loved one a hospitable earth on which they can thrive. This is why I believe the non-political demands shared by those of us that join Extinction Rebellion actions are reasonable demands.
- I think it is reasonable to demand that all the citizens of the UK are told the truth about climate change.
- It is reasonable to ask the government to behave as if the truth is true, rather than take comfort from the fact that the public is ignorant of what is coming.
- And because government does not seem to be able to do the job, it is a really good idea for Citizen Assemblies to give government the backing and courage it so desperately needs.
I am overwhelmed by a sense of panic and fear when I think about what is to come. And the truly bewildering and frustrating thing, to me, is that it is still, just about, not too late. With focus, effort and a degree of inconvenience we can turn things around. We can leave a habitable planet behind.
So this is how I found myself on the road that leads me to here, on trial for raising the alarm bells at the Home Office, one of the institution whose functions will be significantly impacted by climate change.
When we look at my actions in a vacuum. Yes. I broke the law and I am guilty. But my actions did not happen in a law book resting on a shelf. I plead with politicians to do their job and to take care of us so I don’t have to break the law ever again and that future generations don’t have to go to war to insure they can put food on their children’s’ plates.
We have a very small window of opportunity left. If the UK’s economy did not turned fully toward Net Zero by the time people like me stop being put on trial for raising the alarm, that will be really bad news for the next generation and those that follow them into the world.
Thank you for your time.