Holly Cross, a member of the WWOOF UK admin team writes: On 15th April, I took a trip down to London from my home in Wales, with the intention of bearing witness to the mass civil disobedience orchestrated by Extinction Rebellion. I’ve never seen myself as an activist, at least not in the sense that I would ever climb to the roof of an oil company’s offices to unfurl a hard-hitting banner or obstruct a digger about to trash an ancient woodland to make way for a new road. However, I am a passionate advocate for humans respecting all life on this planet (including each other).
In recent years I’ve been worrying that climate change and biodiversity loss have reached a crisis point, and like others I sometimes feel helpless to know what I can do about it all. When I look to government for guidance, I see some seriously bad examples and very few solutions. Then, in October last year, I heard about Extinction Rebellion (or XR for short) and their suggestions about some solutions that I felt I could be a part of. XR make three quite simple demands of the world’s governments; that they tell the truth about the gravity of the ecological emergency, enact policy to reduce carbon emissions to far lower levels than previously committed to and, whilst making those changes, involve citizens in the democratic process through citizens’ assemblies. Until those things happen, XR supporters are willing to take part in peaceful acts of civil disobedience to keep the pressure up.
So, I went on a day trip to London and became an activist. In so doing, I joined thousands of other activists – some of them even more surprised than I was to find myself sitting in the middle of a traffic-free Waterloo Bridge lined with flowering cherry trees, and willow bundles brought in from an XR group in Devon. In the face of the truth – that the planet’s capacity to support life is beginning to fail – what most of us did in blocking roads and talking to people on the streets was not very radical nor even terribly disruptive. It was not difficult and not dangerous (well, I did grate beetroot for about three hours straight in a street kitchen at Marble Arch which fed thousands of people for free – that’s some pretty extreme veg prep), but it was a creative, positive collective act of non-violent resistance which may just have been enough to spark the political and social shift that could reverse some of the more extreme consequences of climate change.
Extinction Rebellion groups across the world carried out similar acts of civil disobedience that week, and I myself returned to London to join the march of rebels through the city and to Westminster to address parliament on Tuesday 23rd April. Since then the governments in Scotland, Wales and Westminster have declared a climate emergency, as have many other local and regional governments in other countries. In short, if they deliver on this declaration, political leaders will consider the impact to the environment of every decision they make and policy will begin to change in favour of ecological regeneration.
Back home in my office, doing my desk job for WWOOF UK, I realise now that I have actually been an activist all along. I am in good company – all the hosts offering their knowledge about sustainable land use, all the WWOOFers wanting to learn how to care for the earth – we are all activists. What XR are doing is not the start of something new, but a continuation and an amplification of what has been quietly happening all along. It’s the right time now for us to speak a bit louder, tell the hard truth, and work together to be part of the change we and the planet so badly need.
photo: Holly Cross