Extinction Rebellion: ‘Ayes’ for the prize

Accepting that we are in a climate and ecological emergency does not mean returning to the Dark Ages or denouncing others for not being perfect; it means making positive changes to help stop the destruction of our environment. Rob Gregson of Extinction Rebellion explains how we can take steps to kick the carbon habit and create a legacy we can be proud of...

‘EXTINCTION REBELLION (XR for short) is just a distraction tactic to allow global elite technocrats to monitor the population by introducing military grade surveillance equipment called “5G” into residential areas.’

This is a real view that we have heard since the creation of the group a few weeks ago. It sounds exciting ... but no, it’s not true.

The other myth is that XR are a bunch of killjoys who want to stop people enjoying their lives in freedom.

We make it a point of principle not to denounce people for not being perfect. We admit that we’re not perfect either – but we’re trying to do better.

The future we imagine isn’t an island returning to the Dark Ages but an enlightened, creative, energetic, inclusive and ecological community which nurtures its people and the local and global environment.

Extinction Rebellion demands that governments take three steps: 1. Tell the truth, 2. Act now and 3. Create citizens’ green assemblies.

To paraphrase, it means ‘a) come on, let’s face it, we can’t just carry on as we are – we’re destroying the environment which sustains us and which is our legacy, so b) let’s do something about it’.

And yes, I’m afraid they really are demands because the evidence suggests that life on earth is in a crisis – and yes, that includes you, local nay-sayers (you know who you are).

In fact, it’s not just one problem but a double whammy: human-caused climate change and a level of species loss which amounts to a mass extinction event. The longer we delay acting, the worse it will be.

Hey! Don’t stop reading. I know that you’ve heard it before and that the evidence is hard to see firsthand.

We know that giving up carbon will not be easy. It’s like giving up smoking – there is always a voice inside saying, ‘Nah, it’s too hard, I can’t go through the pain... and besides, I like smoking’ – but even hardened smokers know deep down that it’s an addiction which is killing them and try to give up every now and then.

Similarly, we all know that carbon is killing us but that it’s hard to give up and besides, we like driving... and flying... and cheap meat. But here’s how we might kick the carbon habit:

Step one – Tell the truth

Hmm... well at this week’s States meeting, the Assembly decided to commit to creating a climate action plan – fantastic! – but they decided not to call it an emergency, quibbling about semantics and shying away from the implications: that immediate and decisive action is required and that it should be top of the agenda.

I applaud their intentions – they voted nearly unanimously to include climate concerns in the new P&R Plan – but I fear that there isn’t the degree of acceptance required and that we still need them to ‘tell the truth’ – that we are in an emergency situation.

Step two: Act now

On a global scale, countries need to engineer as yet unseen post-carbon economies. Not an easy task you’ll agree. What can Guernsey do? As ever, punching above its weight, Guernsey could help steer investment towards a greener (and fairer) future. But what now?

The main immediate goal of XR is to encourage acceptance that there is an emergency. We don’t have a manifesto but we do have a local vision and it’s not of a sort of draconian green fun police (this isn’t a comprehensive list, by the way).

n Buildings (old and new) need to be energy efficient.

n Electricity, heat and power must be generated renewably.

n Fly and drive less. Thirty-two percent of the island’s direct carbon emissions come from transport. We should carbon offset flights. We should invest in passenger shipping. We should introduce a road tax for large and polluting vehicles and charge for parking. We really should.

We’re not saying never use your car again, just try to use it less, especially if you’re an able-bodied person travelling alone. Cars are wasteful and polluting. They’re also clumsy, expensive and isolating – get a bike, an e-bike, a Puffin Pass or a skateboard. You’ll save time and money, connect with people and get fit whilst you’re at it.

n Improve and continue to subsidise public transport.

n Encourage and incentivise active travel. We should encourage people to cycle more, not just for leisure but for transport. The more people who cycle and walk, the safer and more enjoyable it becomes.

n Rewilding – allowing nature to take over in as much of our open space as possible.

n Subsidise, enable and educate local farmers to produce more arable crops, to farm organically and to allow biodiversity in wherever possible. Guernsey needs to become much more self-sufficient.

n Encourage allotments and educate people in self-sufficiency and sustainability.

n Reduce waste of all sorts through reduced consumption of, for example, water, clothing and food.

n Reduce consumption of wastefully produced products – eat meat as a treat (or fish, but it doesn’t rhyme).

n Protect the marine environment.

n Stop the use of pesticides and weed-killers. Reduce the use of nitrates.

n A zero waste policy. We are doing well with recycling but we could do better. We need an iterative, intelligent programme of waste reduction.

n Eradicate plastic pollution. Ban styrofoam and polystyrene food and drink containers. Tax single use plastics and introduce deposits for bottles.

n Better recycling. Lots of good ‘stuff’ goes into residual waste.

n Divest from fossil fuels. We can’t afford to allow even more fossil fuels to be extracted and burnt. Investment should be directed towards renewable energy and non-extractive industries. Guernsey is ideally placed to steer this.

What you may notice is that this isn’t just a list of ‘stop thises’ and ‘don’t do thats’. It’s a positive agenda which will take energy, patience and hard work and it will create jobs because, as you can see, there is no shortage of things to do.

It it possible that we’re not really in an emergency? No, not really, but to doubters, if it’s any consolation, a quote from Tuesday’s debate: ‘What if it’s all a hoax and we build a better world for nothing?’

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