(The video appears at the end of the transcript)
I’m glad to be here in Oxford Circus where today we challenge the circus of lies that is our political system and mainstream media.
I am an academic, a Professor at a University. So my profession is meant to be all about finding and sharing truths. But I discovered that most of us have been too afraid to look closely at what is happening in our world and what we are doing to it.
For over 20 years I slaved away at changing business and finance to be a little kinder to people and planet. Then a couple of years ago I was invited to speak at a conference on climate change and business. As the time to speak came close I felt a rising fear. To get up on stage and give another pep talk? To say well done and let’s do more? It had begun to feel like a lie. I ditched my standard speech and told a room of climate specialists that I think it is too late to save this system. Too late for tinkering around the edges. I spoke without any idea what it means we should do now. Apart from how we must stop pretending to ourselves and to the world. And start speaking our truth.
We have come out on to the streets today to raise our voices in alarm. We knew climate change was coming, but we didn’t know how fast. 17 of the last 18 years were the hottest ever recorded. We have woken up to the warm dawn of dangerously hot century. Forests are catching fire, harvests failing, animals and insects dying off in vast numbers. The extra energy trapped from our carbon emissions is warming the oceans by as much as if six atomic bombs are going off every second. That’s an explosion of warming and turbulence that we cannot turn off.
Our media have failed us. When it was over 20 degrees during mid-winter most of us thought it was nice but weird and scary. But on TV and newspapers we were told how people were just happy to be basking in the warmth. The same journalists scoff at climate change when a blast of Arctic air is forced down on Britain precisely because of the breakdown of normal air patterns.
Last year we saw how chaotic weather could begin to threaten our own lives.
In the UK and in many European countries we grew a fifth less vegetables and grains because it was too hot and dry. Imagine that year on year, globally, and worse. If the authorities think today is a bit of a headache imagine if we were all hungry right now.
In the last few years we have seen more worrying information from the world’s most credible organisations. Just last month the UN’s weather organisation reported that the global sea level is rising faster and faster. That tells us that the warming of our global climate is speeding up. Which suggests the Earth has begun to heat itself because of what we have started.
So I’m sorry, our future climate is not under our control.
So what do we do? Go home?
We gather and rebel not with a vision of a fairy-tale future where we have fixed the climate, but because it is right to do what we can. To slow the change. To reduce the harm. To save what we can. To invite us back to sanity and love.
The truth is we are scared and we are brave enough to say so.
The truth is we are grieving and we are proud enough to say so.
The truth is we are traumatised and we are open enough to say so.
We are angry and we are calm enough to say so and invite others to join us.
And though we are uncertain, we are smart enough to say so.
We are here to demand that the government admit the truth to themselves and start the dialogue on what to do now.
As countless scientific reports emerged in the last 12 months about how dire our situation is, what has the government done to prepare us? Or even warn us? It did not say, we need to think about how to feed ourselves when other countries have no surplus to sell us. It did not say, let’s build seed banks, greenhouses, and irrigation so we can grow food whatever the weather. No, it said we are doing OK in reducing our emissions, so we can frack gas and mine coal.
Given what we know about climate, we can see that; The government is lying to us that the future of our food supply is nothing to worry about. The government is lying to us that our pensions will be worth anything 20 years from now. The government is lying to us that the economy is stronger than in 2007. The government is lying to us that our children should stay in school and study hard to get on in a global economy.
Maybe that is because they are lying to themselves. We are here to wake them up.
Since Al Gore’s film in 2006 we have been told to do our bit. I can switch off a light, but I can’t switch off the consumer society that requires us to trash more of the planet to service debts to the banks. Our climate crisis was always a political challenge. The Extinction Rebellion is now making that known.
And it has started to work. Some politicians are slowly coming on board. Last month the Labour Party declared a climate emergency and backed the school strikes. But their policy proposals will need to go so much further.
Meanwhile the government still sees climate change as a mere hindrance to economic growth. They seem to believe that the belly of Mother Earth contains unlimited fossil fuels for us to gouge out and burn. Nothing seems to shake this belief. It’s why peaceful disobedience is needed to force their attention.
And if the politicians do all come on board then the necessary changes won’t just happen. Because they don’t have any track record in pursuing the kind of systemic change we need. That means taking on the financial system. We will need to peacefully rebel again and again.
Today is the start of a broader rebellion against business as usual. Taking inspiration from today, we need to stretch the rebellion into our workplaces. Not simply to disrupt. But to risk those awkward conversations with our colleagues, so every decision might begin to align with reducing or adapting to the climate crisis. Because the changes ahead will affect all of us in every workplace and community.
Today will be beautiful. But it might also be stressful, especially as the rebellion unfolds, as it will. So, I want to address our fellow humans here today and around the world who serve as our police.
Today and this week, we will have the honour of seeing mothers and grandmothers putting their bodies on the line for the defence of life itself. For the defence of your children. So I see the women protesting today as our elders. They are here for you. They are here for me. They are here for all of us.
So to our police, I say, when you lay a hand on mothers and grandmothers you will not just be doing your job. It will be your personal decision to participate today, in a process of oppressing women and their wisdom that reaches back thousands of years. An oppression that is at the root of our crisis today.
All of us, including the police, can remove ourselves from that chain of destruction. We can refrain from that act of uninvited touch. So I ask you to listen to the loving call of nature in your own hearts.
And you might hear that Our Mother Earth Says Me Too.
Our Mother Earth Says Me Too. Our Mother Earth Says Me Too.
I want to share a poem that speaks to this. It’s not a famous old poem but written by a friend. Because we are writing history right now. It’s called Galvanize, by Toni Spencer.
“The time has come
to galvanize those heaving sighs from
fraught days and spiritual malaise. From
miles and miles spent in supermarket aisles
overwhelmed by choices to the point where
we lose our voices and so silently
we loosen our ties to life.
“Oh my loves what magic we could make if we
galvanized. Realized beyond fantasized futures, the
power of our presence”
Yes. The time has come, to get together.
To claim the prize of a collective awakening:
Get off our arses. Realize our vastness and
put it to work: Stopping the shopping and stepping out in the
streets. Shop fronts. Fields.
Boardrooms. Classrooms. Living rooms.
It’s time to galvanize. To alchemize a fullness of voice.
A radical choice. To speak up for what we know
to be true.”
We will not accept this mass extinction quietly.
We will not accept the threat of our own extinction quietly.
We may not succeed in shaping the future but we can succeed in living our truth today.
And living it louder. Living it prouder. Living it together. Thank you.