Why Extinction Rebellion will block Cardiff’s streets this coming week
500 protestors will begin blocking Cardiff streets starting tomorrow, in the hope of forcing the government to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite declarations of a climate emergency by first Wales’ then Scotland’s and UK governments there has been no emergency action.
The possible exception is the Welsh government abandoning the M4 expansion, giving the climate emergency as the reason, although most recognise there were other political reasons for the decision.
So why are we taking this action?
Those of us aware of the climate catastrophe we daily inflict upon ourselves have been trapped by horror and helplessness. Extinction Rebellion is fighting for a way out for humanity.
Here is part of Extinction Rebellion’s call to action:
“Climate breakdown and ecological collapse are a direct existential threat to us all. You, your family, and everything you love are at risk. Without immediate and decisive action, we face extinction.
“The Extinction Rebellion is a necessity. Our political establishment has failed to protect its people, failed to prevent further mass extinction of species on earth and opened the door to the possibility of human extinction in the near future.
“Therefore we must rebel to protect the livelihood of citizens and our natural world, or risk losing everything we cherish.”
It is a fast growing movement. At the last count there were 20 groups in Wales. Most meet weekly in their nearest town and communicate constantly online.
Their actions, including the youth strikes, have produced results: 19 Welsh town and county councils have declared a climate emergency. Wales was the first government to do so, followed quickly by Scotland and then Westminster.
However, declaring an emergency is one thing and acting another. We are calling on government and media are to:
- Tell the truth (about the seriousness of the crisis)
- Reduce to zero carbon by 2025.
- Hold Citizens Assemblies with decision making power in order to revitalise our democracy.
For these Citizens Assemblies, individuals would be selected by sortition, a process ensuring a random selection from representative sections of the population, with up to 1000 participants.
They would be trained for a weekend a month for a year, and listen to panels of experts relevant to the questions they are going to decide upon.
Their time would be paid for, as they are doing serious work.
Citizens Assemblies were used recently in Ireland to decide on abortion reform. They worked, changing entrenched views into agreement, as older conservatives listened to young women’s lived experience.
An informal version of the Citizen’s Assembly has already been held inside the Senedd, sponsored cross party by Plaid Cymru and Labour AMs.
The Assembly listened to expert Paul Allen, an electrical engineer and director of the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, summerise the evidence.
Paul pointed to an encouraging survey result – 80% of people would welcome a better distributed more decentralised economy and polity, with less consumption of things and more social interaction.
But interestingly, over 70% think they are in the minority and that others do not think the same way.
It is in this context that XR has burst on the scene with tools to decentralise politics for a purpose, to end the tide of extinction through our burning of fossil fuels.
Of course, there has been push back. The conspiracy stokers have been hard at work to blacken the names of the XR founders and to depict the movement as a menacing plot for governments to gain further control.
Others fear the call for disruption and the participants’ willingness to go to prison as a recipe for anarchy and chaos.
The proof is in the pudding. On the streets new arrivals are trained in nonviolence. That is not just physical but verbal nonviolence. No ranting, no shouting, no nastiness, no blaming.
When XR occupied the centre of London for a week, people with problems were attracted to the action. If one of them started to shout, or had mental health issues, the trained XR people defused the situation.
The police looked on with interest as they are usually left to deal with these situations, untrained. The protests are drug and drink free zones, and there are litter sweeps leaving the area clean in contrast to the rest of town.
Food is provided, and also workshops, training, music, speeches and children’s activities.
People may not be able to drive in them, but they can experience how streets once were, and could again be used, before and after the invasion of the car.
I am also organising a day in the Senedd in September to push for implementing the most important policy changes available to Wales.
For this and for other Assemblies, there is a call out for expertise in reaching zero carbon. Please get in touch if you do, or want to recommend someone.