“Thank you for your time. I am pleading guilty but I wish to explain why I took the action.
I do not feel guilty. I believe that I was doing this because of a circumstance that is beyond my control, that is: the climate and ecological emergency.
I lay down in the road in Parliament Square in April because I had reached a point of complete despair. Despair, because even as a professional ecologist I felt unable to make a difference. It is clear from the scientific articles I’ve read that all of us in this part of the world need to make very significant changes in all aspects of the way we live. I could see, that the only way to get this to happen was to take action, and for a very large number of people to close down central London in order to persuade government to tell the truth to the public.
I respect the rule of law and I have never been arrested in my life before.
The Extinction Rebellion protests were highly successful in causing much greater awareness of the catastrophe which is happening to our planet. On 1st May the UK Government declared a climate and environment emergency, XR’s first ‘demand’. People are beginning to understand that it is an emergency.
What is an emergency? It is an ‘extremely dangerous situation requiring immediate strong action’ such as a world war. Scientists have said we have just 11 years to turn things around. Actions have to be made at the government level. Where is that action now?
We need to stop global temperatures rising at this unprecedented rate. But we should also be preparing for the expected collapse in civilisation. Work is needed in all areas: in education, mental healthcare, agriculture, construction, transport, tourism and manufacturing … the way we spend the earth’s resources. The whole system needs to change -- away from the mad concept of continuous economic growth. We live on a planet with limited resources so it is clear, by the laws of physics, that consumption has to be limited or we will all die. As a whole culture we must stop being greedy.
People in the poorest countries of the world are now experiencing drought, flood and destruction caused by the effects of increased global temperatures and sea levels rising. These are countries which have already been on the sharp end of a colonial, and then globalised economic system imposed by us. It is clear that millions will be affected when crops fail, homes and livelihoods are lost and mass displacement of whole populations is triggered. It is vital that we work together on ‘climate justice’.
I lay down in the road in Parliament Square because I wanted to give my whole being towards the demands of Extinction Rebellion.*
I will just briefly say something about myself:
I am a quiet and shy person with an academic background and a PhD. I did a degree in Ecology in the 70s and embarked on a career in environmental archaeology. I learnt, and then later taught, about the evolution of the natural landscape and the impact of human activity over the past 10,000 years. I am also a botanist and enjoy studying plants in wild, unspoilt places.
I had a career change about 15 years ago because I wanted to do more in the area of conservation and ecology and I am now a biological records manager (for my sins!). I look after a huge database of wild plant and animal records for the Isle of Man. I felt this work was important. I was using my skills to understand populations of species and provide data for planning, and conservation work on the island.
But I became increasingly depressed. I gradually became disillusioned. How was this work going to help to stop biodiversity loss and species extinctions? What was the point when whatever I did could not possibly stop the loss of natural habitats and reduction in wildlife? I kept thinking we should somehow change the system, everywhere I looked I was seeing destruction, but I felt powerless to actually do anything about it. In counselling for my depression I acknowledged at last that it was my worry about the environment that was affecting me.
I started reading about Extinction Rebellion. It made sense to me. It was asking me to act, to get out there and do something. I realised it provided a route to maybe make a difference. It is also about support, co-operation and regenerative culture.
Joining the XR movement was in fact very therapeutic because once you confront the facts about the climate and ecological emergency there is a lot of emotion. Working through that emotion and finding the strength and courage to get out there and do something is very powerful. Taking part in the rebellion in London last April was a life-changing experience for me.
What is this emotion? To be honest it is mainly grief, but also guilt.
We are all responsible for what is happening to the planet.
We, in the global north, are the consumers, who are the drivers of this catastrophe. At the same time we are entrenched in an economic system which is causing destruction around the world.
We can only see this if we take the trouble, not only to read about what is happening around the world, but also, to piece all these scientific and news reports together and face the conclusions: of rapid mean global temperature rise (heating until it becomes too hot for humans to survive), ocean warming and acidification (marine life will die), species extinctions/crashes in numbers of key species (soils are dying and food supplies will dry up); desertification, drought (people and crops cannot survive without water) and sea level rise (towns will be inundated).
These are all happening now and will affect all of us dramatically in the next decades.
Put all this evidence together along with the unknown effects of environmental tipping points and we have reason to be terrified.”
*(I handed the Judge two photos of myself lying in the road in Parliament Square in April, so he could read my two placards and see how peaceful I was).
[I also gave the judge some fresh acorns, collected from a road verge in Norfolk, after we were given our conditional discharge, and suggested he might like to plant them or give them to any children in his family to grow. I had a message later on from the court usher saying ‘thank you’]