Former Doncaster resident Scarlett Lee explains what is extinction rebellion is and why she got involved.
Words: Scarlett Lee
Photography: Warren Draper
When I was a kid we had The Body Shop “save the whale” socks with our bath pearls, Fern Gully, and the World Wildlife Fund panda. When I was a bit older, I watched Captain Planet with my little sister. At the same time came fake Legos, school dinners and, one brilliant day, getting a dog. It was the early 90s and sometimes my family went on package holidays on an aeroplane because we were lucky and sometimes my mum would agree to getting Sunny Delight from the new Asda. On a birthday there might be a party at McDonalds in Doncaster and a bit later at the diner where they danced on the tables at the newly-built Meadowhall. Life was getting bigger and better.
Yet all the time it was there in the background. Things are dying far away. The animals are dying. The earth is dying. But there were also pot noodles, falling outs, a C&A dress for the school disco. And we were getting on with our life stuff because we were kids and the government were supposed to sort the other stuff out. But we could see it wasn’t being sorted so there was the odd “save the something” fundraiser. You could take the dog out in the fields after school and there were insects and birds and you thought there always would be.
Well, here we are in 2019. The shadow has been there my whole life. I’m nearly 35 and nothing got sorted. In fact, it’s unthinkably more terrible. Most of us are switched off at least most of the time but I urge you to brace yourself and truly, deeply delve into the science beyond the headlines. It will shit you up. It will make you split your brain in two because now you know and you can’t un know but you also can’t really comprehend what it means, those things you just read.
I think sometimes about all the turmoil/displacement/misery of Europe in the first half of the 20th century and what those people would say if you went back in time and showed them what the future really looks like but all we can do is deal with what we have. But what exactly can we do? I always wanted to do something, but what? Recycle, yes. Don’t fly, maybe. Vegan food? Local economies? Yes to all of that. Great work, we need them! But the powerful people need to do differently. We need new structures and systems to get through this. Now we’ve had this IPCC report saying 12 years left to save ourselves – and all the scientists seem to reckon it’s super optimistic anyway. And they aren’t saying 12 years carry on as you are, like there’s still time for a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit. They are saying “totally change the way we do things now” to even have a hope that life will look anything like it has before. Yet, fracking and runway building is still going off with political backing. Our Saint Attenborough has got on telly a bit to tell us it’s dire, but he’s even said he has reined it in, he’s scared to turn us off with such dark predictions. It’s on the news but not the most important item. Connect the dots. The refugees are being displaced over resource and land rights due to climate collapse. That war over there is because of this. That flood is because of this, too. Young people are striking from school on Fridays because, to paraphrase teen activist Greta Thunberg, what’s the point in going to school if you won’t have a world to grow up in?
In this mess Extinction Rebellion got started. We call it XR. It’s easier to say. XR is just a piece of the resistance but it feels significant and it’s spreading around the world. Going on marches is not enough; we don’t have time. I joined my local group in Nottingham. The strength of XR is in our networks and organisation and, to be honest, our desperation. All of us are new to it. Many have “never done anything like this before”. We aren’t politicians or activists. We’re working things out as we go along and we all have to step up. Some of us are willing to get arrested. Some aren’t or can’t and that’s ok. There are three demands.
1)Tell the truth. Because it has never been on the news, not once, how bad it really is. The government don’t tell us this is worse than anything we have known. Ask anyone with a science background. Ask Google. That’s why we barricaded the BBC and targeted government departments.
2) Legally binding policies to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2025. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. It’s radical, it will be hard, but what alternative have we got? Think about it. What can be as bad as this is going to get?
3) Form a citizen’s assembly to mobilise this war effort because the government is not equipped. Our systems aren’t equipped.
In Nottingham, our council has just pledged to go carbon neutral by 2028. It’s not perfect; it’s the same as zero carbon and it is not legally binding. It does mean the council is aiming to be the first in the UK. It’s not enough but we can’t sleepwalk any more.