In Extinction Rebellion, we say that our movement is about political change, not personal change, although we welcome the latter.
What that means is that you don’t have to be a vegan hemp-wearing hippie cyclist to join, but it helps.
Climate change, or rather, climate breakdown, is such a scary concept, that we tend to feel overwhelmed just trying to understand it, let alone figure out what to do about it.
There are many lists out there that tell you what you should be doing to minimise your carbon footprint and to mitigate the effects of climate breakdown.
I’m sure you know and practice many of these already: using less electricity, reducing plastic use, eating more plant-based, driving and flying less, planting trees, recycling, using cloth nappies, buying organic etc.
The dangerous thing is that you can go through these lists and tick them off one by one and rate yourself on what you are already doing, and what you could be doing better.
Already taking your reusable cup to your favourite takeaway coffee shop, great job.
Refusing a straw for your juice, remembering to bring your bags for your shopping, well done you!
Shopping at your local organic farmers’ market? Bonus points! Going to said farmers’ market by bicycle? Well, what can I say!
If this all sounds a bit sarcastic, I’m sorry.
I am not trying to say that these things don’t count and that you might as well give up and go live barefoot in Bali until the world comes tumbling down around you.
I am not trying to make you feel that these steps you are taking to live a kinder life are meaningless.
Far from it!
We need more people like you, who care about the Earth and who are willing to do what it takes to live a greener life.
What I’m saying is: don’t get complacent. There’s probably always something else you can be doing.
As you learn more, you can do more. Everything we do, all the choices we make, shape the kind of world we live in.
Ask yourself: how is that little Summer dress so cheap? Fast fashion is a nasty thing.
These cheap clothes that we buy just means that someone else has paid for it, with terrible working conditions, slave wages, serious exploitation.
We need to educate ourselves about everything. I know it’s a pain, and it’s much nicer not to know.
Sometimes you just want to buy a packet of chips! You don't want to have to think about the orang-utans losing their homes and their lives to palm oil plantations.
But once you know something, you can’t un-know it.
Especially not if you have a daughter reminding you about slave children and slave monkeys. Slave monkeys! I kid you not.
That thrifted polyester top you found at the vintage shop is still shedding plastic microfibers every time you wash it, which end up in our waterways.
Your coffee might be organic, but is it also fair Trade? Are the people picking those coffee beans being treated fairly?
What about your chocolate? The R30 you paid for that almond latte you’re sipping from your reusable cup cost more than many people’s food budget for the day.
Be aware of your privilege, and see how you can use it to help others.
It never ends and it’s hard! I admit that it’s not easy to do the “right” thing.
I can’t remember how often I used to forget my shopping bags at first. I’d mentally kick myself, and then just take the plastic bags on offer.
It takes time to form new habits, and to learn to consider all the possible impacts your choices have.
I’m fortunate to have a daughter on hand who is not shy to educate me on all aspects of what we should and shouldn't be doing.
Someone who reads the labels on EVERYTHING, who can tell what fabric something is made from by just having a quick feel; who can read “palm oil” in all languages ever, including Arabic!
Needless to say, we haven't had a biscuit from the shops in a loooong time. I’ve even started buying some of my clothes secondhand.
Old dogs, new tricks, what can I say?
So, go ahead, make these changes.
There is a lot of information available out there for people wanting to make better personal choices. But I am saying that it is never going to be enough.
No matter how many things you change in your personal life, it is not going to add up to a whole heap of beans if we don’t also have Political Change.
What we need to be doing, apart from all these admirable, and necessary, personal changes, is to demand the end of the system that has brought us to this point — the system that is built on the destruction of our world, on extracting every last bit from our
Earth, leaving us with a degraded (dare I say, desecrated?) world.
To desecrate means to treat something with violent disrespect; to spoil something which is valued or respected. Is that not how we’ve treated Mother Earth?
We need a society of caring, informed individuals, doing what we can to live as good a life as we can, coming together with fierce determination, fighting to change this toxic system that we live in.
What we cannot do, is to fool ourselves into believing that it is ONLY down to our personal choices, that we can save the world if only we can get everyone to stop using plastic, to bring their shopping bags, to reduce, reuse, recycle.
Don't fall for that! We need you NOW, not only once you've attained Green Sainthood.
Personal change is a necessary starting point, but we need to go beyond that.
We need to demand Political Change as well.
We need those in power to take the Climate Crisis seriously and to start treating it like the crisis it is.
We need to stand together to demand, and to imagine, a better world, to form the communities which will build this better world.
We are not going to survive this Climate Crisis alone.
We are going to need our neighbours and our communities.
Let’s start talking to our friends and our families about climate breakdown.
We have to look this scary thing right in the face. Don’t turn away. Time is running out fast.
We have to stand up and fight for our lives. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!
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