As hundreds of protestors took to the streets – literally – to bring south London’s traffic to a standstill at the Elephant and Castle at lunchtime today, Croydon Green activist PETER UNDERWOOD explains what it is all about
On Saturday, I broke the law.
I did it deliberately and I even travelled into central London to do it in a place where I knew the police would be watching. I am not a person who is known for breaking the law and it’s not something I do lightly.
As a regular election candidate for the Green Party, I am normally trying to achieve a role where I would be helping to make the laws. I have no intention of causing anyone any harm. The reason I broke the law was quite the opposite.
On Saturday, I joined around 6,000 others in blocking Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster, Lambeth and Southwark bridges as part of a protest organised by Extinction Rebellion. There was a further such protest at lunchtime today, at the Elephant and Castle, where the A2 and A3 meet in one of south London’s busiest junctions.
These protests are to highlight the need for action on our environment and to put an end to Government policies that are causing us all harm.
We know that, since 1970, humanity has wiped out 60 per cent of animal populations. But the extinction we are facing now is of our own species.
We are destroying our life support systems and we are doing so at an accelerating rate.
Despite the warnings of the recent UN report that we only have 12 years left to avoid disastrous levels of climate change, our Government is refusing to act. Even worse, the Government is pumping even more money into extracting fossil fuels and expanding airports and roads – doing exactly the opposite of what needs to be done.
We all know that Something Must Be Done.
Like many of you, I am trying to reduce the amount of plastic waste in my life, I am continuing to reduce the amount of animal products I eat, and to move over to more renewable sources of energy. I will continue to sign petitions, lobby other politicians and go on marches to try to achieve the changes we need. Personally, I will also continue standing in elections so that people have the chance to vote for a candidate willing to give climate change and saving our environment the priority they deserve.
But there comes a point where we need to take action to another level.
There is a long and noble history of civil disobedience being used to bring about change – from suffragettes campaigning for the vote, to Gandhi’s non-violent independence movement in India, to the civil rights movement in the United States.
I’m not claiming that those of us occupying the London bridges faced the same degree of violence as those examples from history, but the principles are the same. We are trying to get noticed. We will break the law where necessary and while we will not engage in violent or harmful activity, we will cause disruption.
Whatever we do, it will be nowhere near as disruptive as the effects of ongoing climate change and environment destruction.
As the writer George Monbiot said: “People are risking their liberty in defence of the living world in very large numbers. It is only when we are prepared to take such action that people begin to recognise the seriousness of our existential crisis.”
We are trying to wake the world up to the very real threat we face. All of the scientific evidence is there to show that we are destroying the environment that keeps us alive.
Solutions are possible. There are technologies and systems already available that will help us live in a sustainable way that doesn’t damage the world around us. All we need is the will to change. If the Government won’t act, then we have to.
As ever there will be cynics who will say that one march, one demonstration, one signature or one vote won’t make any difference. They are wrong because every extra voice makes a difference.
The alternative of doing nothing achieves nothing.
If you can’t do that then use the powers you do have. Explain to people why we are causing disruption. Use your voice to tell others about the need to act. Sign petitions and donate money to support our work. Use your vote to support people who will make a difference. Do whatever you can to help us make the change from a world hell-bent on destruction to one where we and our children have a future.
As the saying goes: if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.
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