BOOK REVIEW – HOPE IN THE DARK

HOPE IN THE DARK

BY REBECCA SOLNIT

The idea to read Rebecca Solnit’s work came through a recommendation from Caroline Lucas, Brighton’s Green MP

We really enjoyed this book. It’s packed full of thought-provoking stories and ideas. The hope that Rebecca Solnit offers is based on a recognition that the human spirit in adversity often displays great strength and generosity and that in facing up to the massive challenges of climate and ecological breakdown we may well see these qualities come to the fore. 

She also has an important message for us environmental activists, which is: don’t expect either victory or defeat, but realise that the change we want to see will happen slowly and incrementally as a result of all our hard work in all the things we do.

If you like to spend time with a writer who thinks outside the box, challenges assumptions and makes you think about things in a different way, you’ll love Rebecca Solnit’s work. She’s an activist’s activist, knowledgeable, gut-wrenchingly honest and, above all, inspirational. 

Our first Cycle Swarm, 11 July

The first outing of Lewes Rebel Riders was on 11 July. We organised the ride as part of the “no going back” campaign, seeking to put pressure on the County Council to use government funding to promote low-carbon alternatives to car travel.

Over 100 people joined us, including several children and young people, riding as a colourful, bee-themed “cycle swarm”. The swarm was led Rebel Riders and supported by members of CycleLewes, Lewes Living Streets and the Green Party. The ride was carefully designed to be open to all ages and levels of confidence to highlight the appetite for cycling and the need to make it safer for everyone.

We gathered outside County Hall (ESCC are the council that manages roads) before cycling slowly, in a socially distanced swarm through the town, along key roads (the High Street, Little East Street, Friars Walk, Phoenix Causeway and School Hill) that need to be modified to favour cycling and walking over cars and vans and other fossil fuel dependent travel.

Join our LEWES Cycle SWARM on Sat July 11

Join us on a socially distanced cycle procession through Lewes on Saturday 11 July to help bring pressure on East Sussex County Council to act to encourage cycling in the town and beyond. We want them to take advantage of the current government offer of funding available to councils who present ambitious plans to enhance walking and cycling as alternatives to car use.

We are meeting at 11am outside the East Sussex County Council offices. We will then ride together down through the town to the Linklater Pavilion. From there we will split into two groups one of which will follow the easier Green Route whilst the other follows the Red Route as depicted in the maps below.

GREEN route

Easier route

Red route

Harder route

Contact cycleswarm@xrlewes.org if you would like to find out more.

We see you now

Artist and writer Alinah Azadeh invites you to our Sussex coastline in the year 2053. Listen to a future myth rooted in migrant heritage and our shifting relationship to sea, land, borders – and time. If you can, and are in reach of the coast or water’s edge, take it with you on headphones, with something to write on afterwards, if so moved.

Message in a Virus

By Dinah Morgan

It is in the middle of uncertainty that anything can happen. Already the Covid 19 Virus has seen unprecedented changes and behaviours occur.

The Dalai Llama has advised us to focus on compassion and empathy and make actions of generosity. He mentions the mantra ‘Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha” to evoke Tara, the feminine aspect of compassion in this time when global support is needed like never before.

Yet there is little sign of a global response to this pandemic, particularly here in Britain. Of course we have a Prime Minister who is ill and a recess of parliament. But one would think that these exceptional times would call for full attendance of everyone in power to make progress in this emergency.

Now we see the need for a government of national unity. But this is not possible without some form of coalition and our ‘first past the post’ model of power does not lend itself to this. The ‘first past the post’ system and our adversarial politics leave us with no safety net. There is a national and global crisis, but there is no way of achieving a participatory government to make either a national or global response. In a system of proportional representation, with a coalition in government, a National Government would be a matter of course. Now the scales fall from our eyes as to the nature of our ‘democracy’. But this can raise awareness of the need for change. And when things go back to ’Normal’ we must implement changes to these essential mechanisms. The new ‘Normal’ has to take into account the fact that the virus as well as Climate Change do not respect borders -whether they are open or closed.

The government appears redundant. While it twists itself in knots over guidelines, volunteers all round the country are working unpaid, doing what the government does not do. Volunteers have formed local support groups to shop and provide food for the vulnerable; they form teams to deliver food for food banks, they walk miles to raise money for hospitals; they make masks and protective wear for medical staff because not only has it not been delivered but has not even been ordered. Firms making testing kits and PPE in the UK are dispatching them world wide, but the NHS had not ordered any. Why not? We are disrespecting not just our volunteers but our medical professionals when we need them most. And the lowest paid and the volunteers will pay for this crisis in the end, through their taxes.

Priti Patel said that she was sorry people felt that supplies had not reached them. ‘Feeling’ had nothing to do with it-the supplies had not arrived. the government had not done its job. Its job is being done by the lowest paid and unpaid volunteers who are putting their lives at risk without appropriate protection.

The lack of a plan for the Crisis in Care at the time of the budget given by billionaire Rishi Sunak is an important failing. After a long wait nothing addressed the terrible mess of care for the elderly. At present many care homes are privately run. Many of them have no PPE and cannot easily be reached because there is no standardised format for overseeing them .They are always short staffed, very expensive for families,-around £900.00 per week-often have poor standards of ‘care’, providing just medication, feeding and toileting. Frequently companies make a lot of money at the expense of the most helpless and vulnerable.

If care homes were nationalised, as part of the NHS, the deaths would be reported as part of the national figure. Seeing the truth of the calamity, perhaps the right action would be taken sooner. It would also make sense with the NHS paying a fortune for medicines, to have a national pharmacy that would create thousands of skilled jobs, keeping the drug money ‘in house’.

We clearly need sustainable people centred systems to maintain the social contract between people and government. Otherwise, politics remain purely a way for interests to realise their own ambitions. This has nothing to do with the ‘common good’.

Nevertheless, there may be a national or global outcry at governments funding and bailing out the corporations who have made themselves rich by destroying the world. France has refused to bail out non tax paying businesses in tax havens. However, here in the UK, the government is anxious to bail out these same concerns with tax payers money, so they will keep polluting and be paid by us to do it. The link between bad air quality from fossil fuel pollution and deaths from the virus are a mirror of each other. Strangely, grounding transport to keep people safe from the virus has worked by removing one of the chief threats to respiration-poisonous air. 4.6 million people die every year due to related illnesses.

A mature oak tree produces around 240,000 litres of oxygen. The life support Boris Johnson blessed the NHS for, when it was pumped into his lungs.

Yet with non essential construction work -HS2 -being given the go ahead, not only are thousands of these life giving trees being destroyed, entire communities are also being put at risk. The collaborative building teams, transportation, families and ultimately doctors and nurses treating them are all in danger of infection. All this to speed avenues for airport development, which in turn will poison the air which in turn will make people susceptible to viruses. . . . .

This is our normality-business as usual.

‘Business as usual’ is a psychopathic, illogical growth model. It is like an enormous beanstalk that sucks up the entire world and then crashes and dies leaving nothing left. It is not sustainable. It is not in harmony with natural systems. It is anti-nature and therefore anti-human. Perhaps this accounts for why people are being used and disrespected. If business is not regenerative it should have no future and not be supported. We need Regenerative Business only -not Business as Usual.Underwriting sustainable companies and helping green companies with their start up costs should be priorities in any loosening of monetary policy.The structure of the economy also needs to be re-orientated from exclusive to inclusive, so that wealth is shared across the spectrum of society.

In the light of the coming economic chaos, a Universal wage now seems quite a sensible idea to try out. Especially in view of all the unpaid workers rallying to fight Covid 19 while the government vacillates over missed emails and test numbers.

It was heartening to hear an entrant for this years cancelled Olympics say he had decided to come out of this crisis physically, spiritually and emotionally fitter than when he entered it. One of the main sources of spiritual and emotional strength is a sense of connection with nature, the seasons and the renewal of the circle of life. This and the blessings of love and friendship are what are holding people together at this time.

Buddhists teach that we are here at this particular moment in time because of the process of cause and effect, known as karma. Being born in turbulent times, we have the opportunity to turn our karma into ‘mission’. This mission is to create wisdom, compassion , courage and fortitude and transform this challenging world we live in. This teaching says we are here now because we are needed to make our contribution.

The challenge is made more difficult by dint of psychopaths often being in charge. This has serious consequences for mental health in ordinary, kindly altruistic people. The problem lies in the disconnect between normal people respecting and co-operating with each other and nature, but ruled by those who tell them to destroy each other and nature . And told that we are not connected to our mother-Earth- as our children are connected to us.

We act as though we are not at all dependent on her bounty, but are somehow autonomous and capable of providing the sun and moon , the seasons and the tides. This is a grand delusion. Our actions show that we are mad- actually killing our mother without even a motive. Perhaps there are psychological reasons why mostly white males with an early boarding school background and huge sense of entitlement want to kill their mother. However, the truth is that we are all connected in every way that can be imagined . This is clear when one meditates on any single object , its aspects, origin and purpose.

When we stop being deluded we see reality: Our ‘mother’ is chronically ill with the virus-she has a dangerously high temperature and is suffocating – she cannot breathe. And because of the Covid 19 many of us know exactly how that feels. In microcosm, the virus communicates what is happening to Mother Earth: her lungs have been butchered with deforestation and toxic emissions, and the seas swamped with toxics. The symptoms are the same. She is coughing and sweating and may die. She is asking for medicine.

The wonder of it is we have the medicine! We know how to make her better!

In the past few weeks the fatal levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air above major cities have dropped by 50 per cent, with resulting benefits to nature and humans alike. Bleached coral reefs in Thailand are regrowing as the relentless crowds of tourists stop polluting seas with motor boats. Just leaving nature alone seems to be enough to encourage her to heal.

And we must make her better because if we don’t, the next stage is not the acute short term pandemic. It is the chronic ongoing condition of climate change. This will not have an end and will affect Mother Earth and all her children for ever and be irreversible. Unlike Corona virus.

Our Mother is giving us a chance to learn an important lesson the hard way before we damn ourselves. We do have an incredibly lucky opportunity to learn from this and avert disaster.

So, let’s get our mother better!! But how?

Let’s get better economies; better business; better transport; better food and supply chains; better democracy; better health care; better agriculture; and let’s get better together! Globally and locally!!

Mother earth is also modelling how to realise the cure. The virus apparently ’jumped’ from animals to humans. It mutated for its survival. Now we have to do the same. We have to make a ‘jump”too. Business as usual is not going to cut it in a world depression based on an economy of unsustainable and dangerous growth.

We have to not just jump but leap for life! we have to leap up an evolutionary step from humans to ‘humanes’. Where we put our sense of community, courage, compassion and wisdom before the animality of the marketplace. Incredibly, by choosing to make this move, we will have actually passed the evolutionary test even before we have achieved it. We would have become ‘humane ‘beings by making the humane choice.

What else is there? Will we really listen to the psychopaths and continue despoiling our mother even when it kills our families, communities and the very land that supports us?

All the selfless heroism that is being displayed through the need to save lives from the virus show what we are capable of. Why should we listen to them? We pay the taxes!

In lockdown it’s hard to think what to do to carry this forward. Planting vegetables, being kind and helpful, making generous actions, focussing on compassion, emptiness and gratitude are some of the ways. I will practise contentment and witness the overflowing of human kindness, sweetness, creativity and courage in us ordinary people, and of other lands that offer us sympathy and support. Valueing the earth right here and teaching myself that less is more are practical things I can do right now to care for our wonderful planet. After lockdown the lessons learnt about the ingenuity and capabilities of communities right across the world need to be reflected on and developed.

Let’s get better together. Earthlings Unite!!!

A plea for thought!

Dear friend,

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a thinker.  One of the things you think about is the damage we’re wreaking on the world we inhabit. Perhaps you’ve been actively involved with Extinction Rebellion, in Lewes or London or somewhere else. Perhaps you’ve been supporting us in other ways. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about getting involved, or you’re just visiting our website out of curiosity.

At a time like this there’s so much more to think about. The dreadful death count. The fear for your loved ones. The sheer, unprecedented scale of it. The huge, deeply unsettling uncertainties. The changes in your own life, and in society; the way the disease has laid bare the systemic shortcomings and inequalities and injustices. And the positives. Communities coming together.  People supporting one another. Less traffic. Fewer planes. The spring unfolding around us. Nature having a breather. What to make of it all?

It’s hard to know what to think – and yet at such a time thinking becomes even more important. And so this is a plea for thought. We’ve been inspired by the wonderful art gallery our Creative team has put together by sourcing art from our members – if you haven’t seen it, visit http://xrlewes.org/art-gallery/ – and we’d like to do something similar on our website for the written word. So, please share your thoughts with us! They can be in any form you choose – a poem, or an essay, a piece of creative writing, a lockdown diary or an idea for an action or an idea for societal change or a joke. We aren’t being proscriptive!

For surely now, sharing our thoughts with one another is one of the best things we can do. As a way of therapy, of helping each other to deal with the terrible stress of it all, and also so that new ideas might emerge – ideas that may just help us to build something positive, so that out of this tragedy we might create a better world, with climate justice at the heart of it.

Please email us at xrlewes@gmail.com

Love and hope,
XR Lewes Central

No Going Back

No Going Back

There’s a new national action starting called ‘There’s No Going Back Sundays’. Around the country Central XR are encouraging people to stand with a handmade placard highlighting the need for change as we come out of the lockdown. It’s suggested we stand 2 metres apart, wear masks and the photos are posted on social media.

On Sunday 17th May several Rebels set out from Lewes either on bicycles or by foot as runners to join up with those on the seafront in Seaford. They gathered on Cliffe Bridge where one of our Creatives had stencilled a bike symbol to highlight the need for more cycle ways.

Meanwhile, the Seaford rebels were either standing silently holding placards or engaging with interested passers by. The messages were generally welcomed and there was a really good atmosphere along the seafront.

Further along the seafront some mischievous magic was appearing on the grey pillars. Another of our creative rebels had started drawing a fabulous series of figures. Passers by loved the playful characters and the photos have now been shared widely on Facebook.

The action is every Sunday at 10am and you can join in alone or together. Just make a placard and post the photos:

Volunteer with Extinction Rebellion

The Rebellion needs you! Extinction Rebellion has grown enormously thanks to your support! We need volunteers nationally, regionally and locally to help organise for when lock-down is over and politicians and big business try to push us back into business as usual. We have to resist – it was ‘normal’ that caused this mess in the first place! Visit the XR UK volunteer website and find the role for you. We welcome everyone and every part of everybody. We are all crew in XR.

Go to http://volunteer.extinctionrebellion.uk/ to find out how you can help save the planet.

Barclays Action AGM 2020

Let’s tell Barclays and their shareholders that fossil fuel is dead!

Carbon emissions must start declining steeply now if we are to stand a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate breakdown. Yet Barclays has invested £70 billion in fossil fuels and carbon intensive companies since the Paris Accord was signed in 2015 – and they show no signs of stopping. Just to add to the madness, it makes no sense financially. Oil prices are volatile and no longer a safe investment for shareholders.

This action will start now, culminating with a swarm of Barclays’ social media on Thursday 7th May, 11am, the day of the AGM.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

This action will be aimed at shareholders, big business investors and Barclays, as these are the people who will either be voting at the AGM or will know people who are.

Barclays have said they will go net zero by 2050, but given no commitment to stop fossil fuel investment. In January, an influential group of Barclays Shareholders, represented by ShareAction, tabled a motion to phase out all fossil fuel investments. This will be on the table at the AGM on Thursday 7th May. Let’s strengthen their voice and tell other shareholders to follow them!

So what can i do ?

Help raise a social media storm! At 11am on Thursday 7th May, comment, post and share, then comment and share again!

Tweet Barclays at https://twitter.com/Barclays or https://twitter.com/barclaysukhelp

Message them on Facebook or LinkedIn – https://www.facebook.com/BarclaysUK https://www.linkedin.com/company/barclays-uk/

Suggested hashtags: #dontbankonbarclays, #nomoneyinoil, #fossilfuelisdead

You can also email the company secretary – companysecretary@barclays.com

Suggested text – feel free to amend as you like, or of course you can write your own message!

I was pleased to see that Barclays has announced a commitment to go net zero for carbon emissions. However, it’s very troubling that you have given no commitment to phase out investment in fossil fuels. The science is clear – to avoid catastrophic global heating, what we do over the next five years is crucial. Drastic action is needed.

I urge the Barclays board to show leadership on this issue. Tell the world that you’re serious about tackling the climate emergency, and this isn’t just a piece of corporate greenwashing. Give a clear, timebound commitment to phase out fossil fuels.

Killer Facts: Feel free to use these, or source your own facts to highlight the many ways that Barclays are putting our future at risk.

  • 33 global banks (including Barclays) have provided $1.9 trillion to fossil fuel companies since the adoption of the Paris climate accord in 2015.
  • Bank financing for fossil fuels has increased each year since the PCA.
  • Over the past three years those same banks provided financial services worth $600 billion to the 100 companies with the largest investments forecast in new fossil fuel extraction, infrastructure, and power generation.
  • Barclays are 6th worst in the world of banks investing in fossil fuel since the PCA.
  • Barclays are the top European banker of fracking and coal, and lead as the worst European bank for fossil fuel investment.
  • Barclays have invested $85 billion (£70b) in fossil fuels and $24 billion (£20b) into expansion since the PCA in 2015.

Email YOUR Pension Provider

If you have a pension, there’s a good chance your pension savings are invested in Barclays. Make your voice count! Use this link to see whether your pension manager invests in Barclays, and to email them asking them to vote for the ShareAction resolution.

Switch Your bank

Do you currently bank with Barclays? For a bank, customers voting with their feet is the most powerful persuasion of all! Click here to find an ethical alternative. (If you don’t bank with Barclays, use this tool to see how your own bank is doing. Barclays is just the worst of a pretty bad bunch.)

find out more

Extra info and links to interesting articles:   Barclays fossil fuel investment breakdown (The summary below shows the split of the $24 Billion invested in FF exploration and expansion, it does not include the $85 Billion invested in existing fossil fuel involvement)
 Type of Investment Rank (off 33) $ invested since PCA (2015 – 2018)
Tar Sands 7th 2.5 Billion
Arctic Oil & Gas 17th 262 Million
Ultra-Deep Water Oil & Gas 10th 1.6 Billion
Fracked Oil & Gas 6th 13 Billion
Liquefied Natural Gas 15th 1.4 Billion
Coal Mining 18th 231 Million
Coal Power 7th 3.2 Billion

Above data obtained from banktrack.org

Online meeting template for Working groups

Dear All,

After a useful Meeting Facilitation Training Session today, I re-worked an existing XR Meeting Template for our Lewes Working Groups. So, you now have a XR document you can use to record your meetings without having to write up the minutes afterwards! There’s nothing beats making the world a better place! Here’s the link https://drive.google.com/file/d/1agQ-BvxxBm1F3gH7Xk-yHhErfhQxZYT8/view?usp=sharing

Love and Rebellion

Mark – Talks and Trainings