Court Statements Chapter 1
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
I admit that I glued a sign to the front of Lloyd’s of London’s building. The sign read “Lloyd’s of London: Insured shipping to enable the transatlantic slave trade. Today members insure huge fossil fuel projects in Indigenous lands”.
My mum’s family are from the small Caribbean island of Grenada, I have only visited once but what struck me as a child was the devastation to the homes and churches caused by Hurricane Ivan, even 3 years after it had occurred. I later learned that the IPCC predicts an 80% increase in category 4&5 hurricanes over the next 80 years due to man-made climate change.
I respect the law, and I was not always one to make a fuss. I work in analysing impact data from international development projects to fulfil the rights of the poorest children, especially girls and children with disabilities. My career has taken me all over the world, and every step of the way I have been forced to confront the daily reality of climate change.
When I lived in Peru, I spoke to a farmer who pointed at where the glacier had been when he was a child, and where it is now, and told me every dry season brought less meltwater to feed the crops which he depended on. I later learned that on top of that, for every degree temperature increase, the nutritional content of staple foods goes down by 10% - The WHO estimated that by 2030, climate change will have resulted in an additional 7.5 million children under 5 who are moderately or severely stunted.
The consequences of climate change are felt first and worst in the poorest countries in the world. Even though 80% of carbon emissions since 1850 have been produced by us in the West, and today the average Brit emits more CO2 in 2 weeks than the average Ugandan does in a year.
When the pandemic struck I was in Uganda researching how to increase access to education for children with disabilities in refugee settlements. Just the year before there had been floods of biblical proportions just across the border in South Sudan, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless and disrupting the national food supply, driving people to flee. Farmers there complained that every year the seasons were now impossible to predict, insights into their land that had been passed down through the generations was becoming irrelevant, families plant their seeds expecting rain and get drought or expect sun and have their entire yield destroyed by a flood. The IPCC predicts the worst is yet to come, and it is not inevitable, the solutions to this crisis already exist, but governments and corporations choose to ignore them every day.
A persistent guilt nagged me long before I made any effort to change, until someone told me that: ‘Guilt is your conscience calling you to action’. Future impacts on our environment, and the people that depend on it, cling unmistakably to what we do next.
You may tell me there are other more legitimate methods to further my cause. I have made personal lifestyle changes and led a push for sustainability at my workplace, but there is only so much that individuals can do to swim against the tide of government and corporate inaction - just 100 companies are responsible for 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. In a political system built on short term thinking and incentivised by limitless growth rather than wellbeing, it's no surprise to me that decades of conventional environmental campaigning has come to nothing but warnings unheeded. This is an urgent crisis which demands our immediate attention and all of our resources. If the governments of the world had reacted to this imminent existential threat with the same urgency as they have to coronavirus, I would not be here today.
I briefly lived and worked in a town in Ghana called Cape Coast, there is an impressive fort there, and in the 17th century it was one of the most active slave exporting hubs in West Africa. Many of the slaves taken to Grenada most likely travelled through Cape Coast castle. My Grandad who was born in Grenada still carries the surname of a Welsh slave owner.
I stood inside the castle with a tour guide and a group of tourists, some white American/Europeans, some black Ghanaians. The tour guide dramatically gestured to the black tar-stained wood of ‘the door of no return’.
We followed him through the door as he described how we were retracing the steps of the condemned slaves. The door slammed shut behind us. This was the last view the slaves had of their homeland, never to return. I recognised at this point that my mixed race identity gave me a unique connection among the people in the tour group to this door.
With the knowledge that my ancestors had most likely travelled through these gates to reach Grenada, but had done so with the nodding complicity of my white ancestors, I felt entirely involved in the process. I imagined I was both the perpetrator and the victim despising each other, but I found it darkly funny that they did so never knowing that their combined effort had brought me back to the door of no return.
The tour guide unlocked the door, and we returned.
I will not be caught complicit in injustice by future generations.
At what point does ‘business as usual’ - as convenient as it is - become criminal? Lloyd’s of London back then insured the vessels that took human bodies as cargo, and today they use the profit to invest in the burning of fossil fuels
(Two examples being the Trans Mountain oil Pipeline and Adani’s Carmichael coal mine)
Lloyd’s of London has glibly apologised for its role in the slave trade, but we marched in September to say that sorry is not enough - reparations must be meaningful, transformative and driven by the affected communities. Lloyd’s will not apologise for damaging our planet, done with contempt for global climate justice, reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged, and yet I am the one here charged with criminal damage.
(And they do it with the profit made from the slavery of my ancestors.)
Just like all of the activists throughout modern history that we here all hold as inspirations (eg the suffragettes, civil rights movement) it is clear to me that in exceptional circumstances, moral codes ought to supersede the law. In their time they were also labelled idealists, extremists, criminals.
When I put that sign up there, my intention was not to damage Lloyds' building with trace amounts of glue, but to bring attention to what amounts to me as a preventable crime against humanity.
I am proud of what I have done to bring this cause to the attention to the people on the march and others thanks to the media coverage it generated, and I am glad to see that Lloyd’s have since approached XR to find out more about how they can respond to our demands with a programme of reparations that listens to the global community (though I will reserve my praise until I see action taken). I will be even more proud when the wider campaign succeeds and I can tell my grandchildren that I did not stand by, nodding in complicity as we let millions suffer through our inaction.
Sir or Madam, I am an independent environmental consultant, working in the interface of science, climate policy and law. I have a doctorate in structural biology. I worked in scientific computation for 40 years, including high performance climate models. I understand the severity of the climate emergency through science. In consequence, I am a dedicated and passionate climate activist, and a consultant in low/zero carbon energy systems, climate policy, and legal compliance on air quality and carbon emissions.
When you look deeply through the lens of the science, you see that our political institutions, businesses, and society have not started to respond with the urgency required. This is compounded by weak national and international environmental law which allow fossil fuel companies to go on extracting, corporations to continue destroying nature, politicians to avoid acting, emissions to go on rising, and the public to be lied to about the scale of the emergency.
In the UK, our national carbon budgets are artifices. Far from being science-compliant, they are set politically to keep lobbyists and vested interests happy and the Treasury has tried to weaken them. Recent science, published this summer, shows the UK is currently set to emit more than twice its Paris agreement compliant carbon budget. As a country, we must reduce emissions at much greater rates starting now.
Over many years, I have taken every opportunity to raise the alarm and lobby for action. My efforts, and those of many others, have had little or no effect. By 2018, it was abundantly clear that conventional methods of raising Climate and Ecological Emergency up the actionable priority lists of governments had failed.
I joined Extinction Rebellion then, as I could only be true to my self, and deep exploration of the science, by putting my body on the line for the future. I am certain that raising the alarm this way is crucial to reduce a very great harm that has already started: the suffering of hundred of millions of people around the globe from the impacts of catastrophic climate change. It is already too late to prevent such harm, but there is still time to reduce its scale.
The scientific, emotional and social integrity of Extinction Rebellion, and the congruence of its fundamental tenet to “Tell the Truth”, deeply affected me. It has been a beautiful movement to be part of. Crucially it has been successful too: for example, the Climate Emergency declared by the UK Parliament in May 2019, and the rising of the environment as an issue that the public want politicians to act on.
I continue with all the other campaigning methods including recently helping to draft the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill to be debated in parliament in March which starts to establish a national legal framework fit for the emergency. I seek only to tell the truth, and I am only guilty of trying to protect future generations. I sat in the road, and refused to move whilst our Government, and all Governments, fail to take the necessary action to reduce the catastrophe coming down the line very rapidly. Sir or Madam, I plead guilty to that.
Thank you: I plead guilty to an act of civil disobedience –
My mitigating circumstances are that:
- I feel desperate because for 45 years I have known that climate change was a serious threat and yet here we are with virtually nothing being done and moving towards an irreversible catastrophe.
- I feel outraged that successive governments have failed to protect me and my family from impending economic and social breakdown and potential human extinction.
- I feel deeply saddened that each and every day over 200 species become extinct, losing our vital ecological balance and many potential solutions to human problems for ever.
- I feel incredulity that intelligent people in high public and corporate office continue to deny the reality of scientific fact and conduct business as usual.
- I feel proud and privileged to live in a country where I am able to express these feelings.
The UK Government HAS declared a Climate Emergency –
If this is the truth then we must all -
ACT AS IF THE TRUTH IS REAL
I took part in the Extinction Rebellion protest in April because I felt mounting pressure and a responsibility to take action due to my knowledge, my Christian faith, the increasingly dire warnings from scientists about the climate and ecological crisis and the lack of action from our government to do something about it.
I have always felt a strong connection to the natural world and try to live in a responsible way. I have been a law-abiding citizen as I understand that this is necessary for the normal effective functioning of society, but we are no longer living in ‘normal’ times, we are facing a planetary emergency. And an emergency requires urgent action.
It is like we are passengers on board a ship and we can see that the ship is being steered towards the rocks but we trust that the captain knows what he is doing. But as the rocks loom closer and the ship is still heading straight towards them we begin to talk with other passengers and say this doesn’t look right what is going on? We start to talk to the staff who reassure us that they’re sure everything is okay. But nothing changes the ship is getting closer and closer to the rocks and it becomes obvious that something must be wrong with the captain – is he drunk? Is he crazy? We don’t know exactly what is wrong, we can just see the rocks looming right in front of us.
Under normal conditions on the boat we are not meant to go into the captains domain but there comes a point where it seems absurd to obey those rules. To protect yourself and to prevent harm to your fellow passengers you feel you must do something - to just stand there and watch as boat is clearly steering into the rocks would be crazy – you feel you need to do something to change the course of the ship. If you enter into the captains cabin with the intention of trying to change the direction of travel in order to avoid hitting the rocks head on, are you a criminal?
I have chosen to self-represent. I am not a lawyer and therefore may not be able to explain my defence in technical terms. But I would like to emphasise that my actions are informed by my conscience and I understand that the Right to Freedom of Conscience is a protected right and must be given due weight by the court in determining whether my defence of necessity to act to prevent a greater crime is made out. I am not a criminal – I am a conscientious protector, I believe that damage and destruction to the Earth and its inhabitants is a crime. By far the most serious crime going on is the crime against humanity, and the most fundamental breach of human rights, the destruction of the planet, our life support system.
In 2017, I achieved a BSc First Class Honours degree in Design and Innovation, focusing on the Environment from the Open University. This followed seven years of part-time study during which I learned in detail about the environmental crisis and international environmental policy. This led to me gaining a deep understanding of the issues that face our planet, the barriers to state action and how to affect change.
As a consequence, I have taken part in voluntary local initiatives: helping to initiate the A Rocha Eco Church scheme in our village church; becoming Customer Representative for a new renewable electricity supplier; writing monthly articles for our Village Magazine to engage the community on environmental issues and encourage sustainable living; and working with a group to promote the installation of solar panels (hampered by the sudden drastic reductions and subsequent withdrawal of government subsidies for the domestic solar). I have also campaigned on environmental matters, signing petitions, writing emails and letters to, and meeting with, my MP and local councillors.
I have been involved in these initiatives to help raise awareness of the climate and ecological crisis and to promote individual and collective actions at community level to encourage sustainable living, as I believe they are really important, but I also know that these actions on their own are not going to achieve the radical changes our society needs to undertake to avert catastrophic climate change, without action from the government.
The government has a duty to protect its citizens; and it is failing to act to prevent the harm being caused by the continued burning of fossil fuels leading to climate change – the impacts of which are being felt now both globally and in this country.
People are facing unimaginable suffering and dying as a result of the impacts of climate change - which account for around 400,000 deaths per year globally, many due to hunger and disease. Those affected all too often are the poor and vulnerable, living in countries in the global South – those who have done the least to contribute to the causes of climate change – paying the price for the lifestyle of the wealthy minority. This is an issue of huge injustice. In the UK illegal levels of air pollution cause 40,000 early deaths every year, again those in poverty are disproportionately affected. During the heatwave in the UK between June and July 2018 deaths were 663 higher than the average for the same weeks in the previous 5 years.
The system within which we live that promotes high consumption lifestyles to drive economic growth is destroying our planet – 60% of wildlife has vanished since the 1970s as a direct result of human activities, including habitat loss and degradation. Plummeting insect numbers threaten the collapse of nature’s ecosystems.
Extreme weather events are affecting food production, with vast areas of Africa suffering from long term droughts. Water scarcity and crop failure lead to migration and conflict, threatening security.
In spite of being aware of its responsibilities, the predicted impacts of global temperature rises and knowing that the cause of climate change is the unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, the majority of which are caused by the burning of coal, oil and gas, the UK government continues to support and subsidize the extraction and use of fossil fuels. In spite of having pledged to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies by 2020, the subsidies in the UK amounted to £10.5 billion in 2016, largely in the form of tax breaks. A report in June 2019 found that the UK had given over £2 billion of support to fossil fuel projects abroad during the past year.
Despite the need to move towards the use of clean energy, the UK has over the past few years withdrawn financial incentives for the installation of solar panels and through policy has effectively banned onshore wind – the cheapest form of new energy generation. Instead the government supports oil and gas extraction and airport expansion - approving a third runway at Heathrow that is incompatible with commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
It makes no sense, until you read the reports giving the facts of how much money the fossil fuel industry spends on lobbying, the donations from the airline industry to political parties which coincide with important decisions on aviation, such as the approval for a third runway at Heathrow, the donations from those with fossil fuel interests given to the Conservative party during the 2019 election campaign. The largest five oil and gas companies spend around £153million a year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change. Money pouring in to fund the destruction of our planet.
Over the past few years the warnings have become more urgent and more terrifying.
I read the letter of November 2017 published by World Scientists, ‘Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice’ in which they said:
‘To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world's leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning. Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.’
I listened to the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in September 2018 declare that “We face a direct existential threat. …. If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.”
And watched David Attenborough take the ‘peoples seat’ at the COP24 in Poland say:
“Right now we are facing a manmade disaster……if we don’t take action the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon”
We can see the rocks looming yet the ship is still heading straight towards them.
…widespread misery….catastrophic biodiversity loss….an existential threat…runaway climate change….manmade disaster….collapse of civilizations…
Thinking about this terrifies me.
Just beginning to imagine this future starts leading to despair, yet my Christian faith reminds me to have hope and I want to have hope. I need to have hope. But there is no point in just hoping that the government will start acting in the interests of its citizens, rather than corporate interests. The pursuit of power and money – short term goals for political gain, whatever the human and ecological cost, seem to win out. The way to maintain that hope is through action.
We can clearly see the ship is headed straight towards the rocks. We have to act.
As a mother, it is my responsibility to protect my children. As a Christian, I am called to love my neighbour. When governments omit to take the action necessary to protect humanity against climate breakdown, I believe that there is no option but to take action: action motivated by love. Love of my family, love of my fellow humans, love of the natural world.
Over many decades concerned citizens have tried a variety of awareness raising and campaigning techniques, from marching to letter writing. It has not been working and global emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases continue to rise.
This is not a situation that can wait. This is an emergency. An emergency calls for immediate action. Every day matters, every bit of warming matters. Scientists warn that there are feedback loops and tipping points that, once reached, could cascade us into runaway warming. We do not know when these tipping points will be reached. But Arctic permafrost is thawing 70 years earlier than predicted, releasing vast amounts of methane – a greenhouse gas which traps many times more heat than carbon dioxide – into the atmosphere.
Thawing permafrost is one of the tipping points for climate breakdown.
Just last week reports said that the sea is warming far faster than expected, the pace of warming has increased 500% since the late 1980s. One of the study’s authors said
‘Unless we do something significant and quickly, it’s really dire news”.
The consequences of accelerated warming are likely to be devastating for my family and yours, for all people and all life in this country and around the world.
I believe there is a great evil being done in the obstruction and prevention of climate action. If I do nothing I will be complicit. Our government is failing to take actions to prevent the harm of its people and thus is complicit. I can see the harm being done and cannot just sit by and watch it happen.
I can recall my huge sense of relief when I read about Extinction Rebellion via a letter in the Guardian signed by leading academics including the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and George Monbiot, and attended the Declaration of Rebellion in October 2018. I believe Extinction Rebellion’s three demands to be what is needed to drive the action that is necessary to protect life on Earth. It is my belief that the wave of peaceful, non-violent direct action that is rising in the UK and elsewhere, is now a reasonable, proportionate and necessary response to the emergency situation we find ourselves in.
When I came up to London in April I found myself surrounded by the most amazing, kind and caring people each one determined to do what they could to stand up for life on this planet. The overwhelming feeling was of love, compassion and solidarity. Near me on Waterloo Bridge sat a young woman who said that she felt she couldn’t have children in light of the predictions for the future – this is devastating. I have been priviliged to have children but because of the situation we now find ourselves in, caused by the way I have been living, complicit within the system, she now felt that she doesn’t have that right.
At Waterloo Bridge I lay down to block the road in an act of peaceful solidarity with fellow protestors to use our collective power as a force to put pressure on the government to act on the climate emergency – an emergency that is of untold burden on the younger generation.
It was not something I was comfortable with doing, I never thought that I would be in the position of breaking the law, I was scared. Yet, given the circumstances, to walk away seemed unthinkable, to put myself on the line felt the right thing to do. I was not alone. I was acting alongside others out of a love greater than fear.
I took my opportunity to try to change the course of that ship.
The Extinction Rebellion action in April succeeded in setting in motion a change of course. In May the UK Parliament declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency. Many county and local councils have declared Climate Emergencies. The government has set a net zero carbon target of 2050 –in no way adequate, but a start. Concern about climate change is at an all-time high amongst the British public. Coverage of climate related issues has increased in the UK newspapers with 1470 articles in December 2019, up from 888 articles in December 2018. The BBC has just announced plans for a year-long series of coverage and special programming on climate change.
We are in an emergency. The UK Parliament has said so. World Scientists have said so. The Natural History Museum has said so.
An emergency calls for immediate action.
I and other protestors have come together to take action to use our force, our collective power, to pressurize the government and other institutions into taking action to end the burning of fossil fuels for energy, to reduce carbon emissions and bring about the change needed to prevent a greater harm – a crime against humanity – genocide and the destruction of the planet.
I accept the scientific evidence that we are on the brink of catastrophe and there is an urgent need to act now. I cannot ignore this or delay until it is too late. I acted out of love to protect the life of my children, my family and yours, and all life on earth. If the court considers me a criminal for taking this action then so be it. My conscience tells me it would be criminal to do nothing.
I stand with Extinction Rebellion to protect life, not to destroy it. Your worships, I would imagine that you undertook to become magistrates because you value justice. The same system that promotes the destruction of the natural world through over consumption of resources in the pursuit of economic growth, though its rules and precedents may compel you to find me guilty. If you find me not guilty the system begins to change. And that is what is needed to ensure that truth and justice prevail.
I have a degree in Environmental conservation, work in the field of environment and ecology and am a father of two children.
I have been reading reports about climate change and biodiversity loss for years and have felt despair for what is happening. I have, like many others, signed petitions, gone on marches, emailed MPs, written letters and joined environmental organisations. These have either been ignored or replied to with polite indifference. This is the reason I sat on the road on the 20th April. I did not know what else to do.
Our climate has already warmed by 1°c of which we are already starting to see the impacts, such as the bush fires in Australia. With the current and pledged policies, we are on track for 3°C warming by 2100. This will have major consequences for humanity and all the other species that share this planet with ourselves. Kristalina Georgieva, the World Bank chief executive said “The climate crisis is here and now. Massive wildfires ravage fragile habitats, city taps run dry, droughts scorch the land and massive floods destroy people’s homes and livelihoods. So far the response has been gravely insufficient”.
Extinction Rebellion has also tried to raise awareness to the ecological collapse, with some scientists believing that we are at the beginning of the sixth mass extinction, but the first caused by a single species.
Due to my degree and work knowledge, I am very much aware of the ever-increasing loss of our biodiversity. It is estimated that we have lost approximately 50% of our insects in the UK. The journal of Biological Conservation reports “If insect loss cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind”.
The Living Planet report states that we have lost 60% of wildlife populations in less than 50 years. The UN biodiversity chief, Christiana Pasca-Palmer has stated “Loss of biodiversity is a silent killer”, “The numbers are staggering. I hope we are not the first species to witness our own extinction”.
Professor Johan Rockstrom also states “Only by addressing both ecosystems and climate, do we stand a chance of safeguarding a stable planet for humanity's future on earth”.
There are many more frightening reports on biodiversity loss that point to an urgent need for action. I believe we have a small window of opportunity to make the changes necessary and a moral imperative to do so. I have, like many, mulled over how we can bring about this change. Civil disobedience has brought about some of the most important social changes in society's history by highlighting wrongs and injustices within their systems. We are at that same juncture now. Our society, with how we treat the living world and the disregard for future generations is wrong and unjust. Unless we manage to change our society, the future for humanity and all the species that share this beautiful planet looks very bleak.
I would like to add one other point as to why I felt it necessary to protest on the 20th April and that is my role as a parent. I am very scared for what the future holds for them. My children are also aware of climate change and are scared too. A conversation with my son last summer resulted in him crying and saying “It’s not fair, I haven’t got the same future to look forward to as you did”. Sitting on Waterloo Bridge after hearing that was very easy.
Your Worships I would like to introduce myself to you so that you can understand how surprised I am to be here before you today. Indeed, I think that my community work over the years would just as easily have seen me on your side of the bench rather than on this. I was a young community leader in the aftermath of the St Pauls riots in the early 80s. I worked closely with the police, local MP, Catholic Church, Council and other community leaders to help stop Notting Hill going the way of Brixton and Toxteth. I Chaired a Police and Community Consultative Group for a number of years, working to make the idea of “Policing by Consent” a reality. I then became an elected Councillor. This commitment to the community is not dissimilar to a number of magistrates I have known and it may echo your own history.
I hope that this introduction to me will help you understand that it was my civic duty to be where I was October last year and to do what I did. But civic duty was not the only thing that compelled me to be there. It was an overwhelming sense of guilt that we were not discharging our wider duty to the planet and to our children.
Your Worships will probably have heard from my comrades about climate change and you may have read a lot about it and perhaps you share our concerns. If so, you will not be alone. Even the long time climate change sceptic Jeremy Clarkson has made a Damascene conversion and is now speaking out passionately about the need to protect ecosystems. Realisation that climate change is likely to be as bad as the scientist predict is now almost universal. However the gap between this realisation and action is frighteningly wide.
- I feel guilty of being part of a society which has cared so little for the planet that we are destroying its capacity to support us.
- I feel guilty that the 250 tonnes of CO2 that I emitted so far has contributed to this destruction.
- I feel guilty of leaving the world in a worse state for my children than it was when I came into it.
- I feel guilty for leaving my children the hard moral choices about population and refugees which is an inevitable consequence of our failure to care for the earth.
These are guilts we all share and campaigning with XR is my restitution to future generations and other species for what we have done.
I have also done all the normal avenues of campaigning and more. I have written and spoken to MPs, Ministers, Churches, Schools and Community Groups. I have walked countless marches and signed countless petitions and I was elected as London’s first Green Councillor. As an environmental professional for 35 years, I have saved perhaps 6,000 tonnes of CO2, through insulation and more efficient heating systems for housing. But set against the 450 million tonnes CO2 a year from the UK, this is all a drop in the ocean.
So when I was at Birdcage Walk I felt compelled by the enormity of the threat facing the earth to sit down to underline the need for each of us and our government to take action on climate change.
In reality my action did not delay the traffic much as my journey to the police station demonstrated. When a ten minute delay due to XR’s demonstration and about an hours delay due to the weight of traffic and roadworks.
In conclusion, I plead Guilty to the charge of obstructing traffic, but ask that your Worships consider the mitigation of the act as a defence against the much greater damage from Climate Change if we continue to leave it unchecked.
How I am judged is in your gift. However the more important court is that of our children and grandchildren, and in that it is likely that your Worships and other members of the court will be on this side of the witness stand with us.
As part of my evidence and in my closing statement I want to speak to you as a woman with intellect and emotions. Humans don’t receive reality; we experience it actively. We live and work in the qualitative realm, the realm of feeling, of sensing, of touching, of embodied knowing. Our emotions are essential to the making of meaning and need to stand alongside quantitative summations – our system of governance has to take these other realms of experience into consideration because this is how we truly live and are human.
I’m an educator, artist and creative consultant, I have created social enterprises and projects that generate incomes for people and provide learning and creativity and culture opportunities for many more. As an artist I pay ‘attention to the patterns and processes of the universe, curating experience into meaning’ (Ruth Little). I studied geography at Cambridge - I work with people who work at the leading edge of climate science and who read our world and piece it together in systemic ways never done before.
- know that the risk of climate and ecological emergency is urgent. Professor Tim Lenton a professor of climate change, director of the Global Systems Institute, a friend, work colleague, author of IPCC report and leading academic on climate tipping points tells us in an article in Nature released just last week to ACT NOW In our view, the evidence from tipping points alone suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency: both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute
- am going to read three extracts from the expert witness statement from Dr James Dyke, co-director of the Global Systems Institute, Exeter University.
I know that in an international study back in 2009 the Lancet and UCL London found that human -caused climate change was already responsible for 5.5. million disability adjusted life years in 2000.
And that in 2018 global emissions increased at a higher rate than the previous seven years
That the 2019 report from the Climate Change Coalition told us that the UK government had failed significantly behind their Carbon reduction targets having implemented only one of the 25 recommendations made by the CCC
That 1000 infants under the age of 1 are killed today by climate change
that 11,000 leading scientists jointly released a warning statement in the journal Bioscience in November this year stating : the climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected threatening ecosystems and the fate of humanity
Warnings of human and life-web extinction and collapse of civilisation are being issued by leading public figures such as Lord Stern and Sir David Attenborough.
Mary-Rose Lane, friend, work colleague and Environment Agency ecologist shares evidence from peer reviewed papers of leaf burst, flowering and egg laying having advanced in most species that have been recorded, an average of nearly two weeks since 1970’s and that species that do not adjust their phenology in response to climate change are more likely to experience declines in populations, as this affects the way they synchronise with other species as well as their productivity. For example, earlier flowering of willow and hazel catkins (observed some years in December/January) mean the catkins are not available as a first food source for emerging bumble bees and hazel dormouse at the end of their hibernations, leading to starvation and death. (https://nerc.ukri.org/research/partnerships/ride/lwec/report-cards/biodiversity-source12/)
On 4 & 5 December 2019 Vanuatu a Pacific island state made up of around 80 islands and Maldives called for an amendment to the Rome Statute in the International Criminal Court in the Hague to make a fifth internationally recognised crime in the form of Ecocide Law (and that Ecocide is a term for wide-scale, long-term environmental damage)—and that Ecocide be equivalent to genocide.
Today one million tonnes of CO2 are being released in the UK. I want us to share a moment together to breathe in the air in this court room whose chemistry is different now than it was yesterday and the day before.
I want to remind you that the state has a duty of care to its citizens and has obligations under international and human rights law to keep us safe.
In February this year 35 of 650 members of parliament decided to turn up for the first debate on climate change for two years, last month our current prime minister refused to attend the first ever television leaders debate dedicated to this critical issue.
In April of this year, in the House of Commons three MPs from the Conservative and Labour parties publicly thanked me personally and other activists from extinction rebellion on being arrested in April and told us how this was helping bring the climate emergency into focus.
We are in extreme circumstances that the ocean waters are rising, the glaciers are melting, food supplies are shrinking, biodiversity is reducing, human and animal populations are moving. The statistics and evidence are too many and too overwhelming for those of us that look or those of us that feel.
Knowing what I know, my actions on 16 April were wholly necessary and proportionate. Death and serious injury are resulting as a result of climate change right now. I am doing my utmost to prevent harm.
I am here today motivated by a deep, informed and instinctive drive to preserve and protect life. This includes my child, Finn. He is 10. Full of life and love and hope.
I nearly didn’t become a mother. With the awareness that I have of the state of our planet and with no sight of change, it seemed like a deeply irresponsible thing to do. My biology pushed me forward and my heart and mind compel me to do and be the best I can possibly be in the fight for ongoing life and this is why I am here in court.
I am here after 27 years of carrying the burden of knowledge and awareness of climate change, and our increasing damage to the biosphere. I’ve been holding this knowledge for decades, often in a wringing silence. I know what it feels like to for this knowledge to hit you just as you are setting out on your adult life – I was 21 an undergraduate at University. It is crushing.
I am here because every day of my life is lived in service to my planet and I do this in the best way I can through my actions, my work and my ethics.
I am here because through my life I have worked for positive change, working with leading climate scientists to communicate their research, working with ecologists and naturalists to communicate the wonder and intricacy of the web of life. I have worked in campaigning organisations, I have lobbied MPs and signed countless petitions, I have modified my actions and behaviour to reduce my personal impact on the planet, I have planted hundreds of trees, I have not flown in an aircraft for 19 years. I have marched and made placards. I have received awards for my work. I have been named in the Independent on Sunday Happy Index one of 100 people in the UK who make Britain a better place to live. I’ve spent all these years trying to do my bit, informing myself, campaigning, NONE OF THIS HAS WORKED, NONE OF THIS MEANS ANYTHING.
I am here now because I am proud to stand with the thousands of people who are also defending this earth and have been for many years, or decades and some of whom lose their lives for doing so. I see it as the only course of action open to me to work to protect millions of people and creatures across our globe in light of the overwhelming evidence of harm - what responsible citizen would not do the same?
I am here because I look to the law to keep me safe and the law is failing me. I am not safe, we are not safe. Article 2 of the Human Rights Act protects right to life. It means the Government should take appropriate measures to safeguard life by making laws to protect us and, in some circumstances, by taking steps to protect people if life is at risk.
It is my duty as a responsible citizen to prevent harm and that my actions arise from the same belief on which the entire judicial system is predicated – that the human race requires a system for the prevention of harm and that the duty of a state is to provide such a system to prevent such harm.
I am here beseeching you, madam/sir, because It is not in my power to change laws or see that laws are used appropriately but that this is your power. I am asking you to use this power, given you by the state, to keep me safe. I am supporting you in every way I possibly can to do this. I am here for all of us.
I remembered the word of Jack Forbes, a native American writer as I stood on Waterloo bridge back in April: I can lose my hands and still live. I can lose my legs and still live. I can lose my eyes and still live … But if I lose the air I die. If I lose the sun I die. If I lose the earth I die. If I lose the water I die. If I lose the plants and animals I die. All of these things are more a part of me, more essential to my every breath, than is my so-called body.
My motivation today and always has been love. I am an informed, conscientious earth protector, having never been in trouble with the law, committed to non-violence and the preservation of life. This is who I am. Back in April, knowing what I know and what you now know – what would you have done?
I have argued that my actions in April were proportionate and reasonable, and that the Section 14 did not consider the Right to Life along with the Right to Freedom of Conscience. I am concerned that we are seeing our democratic freedoms, including the right to protest, eroded, and the criminalisation of citizens seeking to protect life on earth while governments and corporations commit ecocide.
What is Ecocide? It is serious loss, damage or destruction of ecosystems, and includes climate and cultural damage. I believe Ecocide should be recognised as an atrocity crime at the International Criminal Court, alongside Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. Ecocide is in fact Genocide and a Crime Against Humanity but a great deal more, since it is a crime against all life on earth. The court may not be surprised to hear that there are vulnerable nations desperate to see it enshrined in international law, and may not be surprised that it has the support of the president of the Maldives.
Your honour may also may be aware of the work of the late Polly Higgins to make this happen. When she came to speak in my home town some years ago she inspired me with her passion and her clarity. I read her book, wrote a novel dedicated to her and became an Earth Protector. A criminal law of Ecocide would change government policy and industry direction. I believe it is on the way. In fact there is currently a petition calling for the UK Parliament to debate Ecocide Law.
I spent some time on Waterloo Bridge holding a placard that read STOP ECOCIDE. While my actions as an individual cannot stop such a crime, history shows that peaceful civil disobedience can achieve change. In April I felt compelled to play my part, in the hope that the protests – including the number of arrests, which drove the narrative – would have an impact on government, on the media that until then had been almost completely silent, and the public they had not informed. Data shows public awareness and concern spiking in April and increasing since; we have now reached a point where a spokesperson from Extinction Rebellion appears on a Question Time panel. While government action has so far been disappointing, I continue in my positive moments to believe that peaceful civil disobedience will lead to the necessary change, radical as it must be. In between, I feel terrible despair, and can’t tell where climate grief ends and depression begins.
But I am privileged in many ways, and when I sat on Waterloo Bridge I thought not just of my grandchildren but of those, young and old, already dying in the global South. There’s a legal principle quoted by Lord Goff in 1990 and going back at least to 1666 and the Fire of London, which talks of public as well as private necessity. For example, the destruction of another man’s house to prevent the spread of catastrophic fire is legally justified. As Greta Thunberg says, our house is on fire – a home we share as humans on this earth – and it is up to people like me, whose nation after all has been guilty historically of carbon emissions on a huge scale, to work for climate justice for those already suffering in a way that we in the UK have not yet begun to do – not, at least, as dramatically. It should be noted, though, that according to the Royal College of Physicians, in this country air pollution already kills 40,000 a year.
I have claimed the right to freedom of conscience and I have explained that my actions to prevent a crime beyond imagining did not use excessive force. Or any force at all. I have referred to the science which the courts accept and to the government inaction which has also been recognised in these trials. I have explained that since climate change is already claiming lives, the imminence requirement of necessity is in place. I believe I did what was right. I hope Ecocide Law will come, because it could save us. Climate activists found guilty will probably, before too long, be pardoned. But science tells us there is very little time. That’s why I rebelled in April, instead of writing another email or signing another petition. It didn’t feel like a choice. The truth is terrifying but once taken into the heart it can’t be dislodged or overlooked. It can only lead, and it led me to Waterloo Bridge. I wish it had been enough, but it was a start.
A friend recently overheard three magistrates being directed on how to judge these S14 cases. The legal advice was that they are not about climate change and not about morality. If justice is not built on morality, I wonder what it is for.