Saturday, 24 November 2018

Extinction Rebellion Day - and related thoughts - on 17 Nov 2018

Last week - 6th of November - I attended "Oh What a Lovely War" put on as this year's Settle Operatic Society Show to mark 100 years since the end of the first world war.  I would recommend watching the show or film - It is educational and not gory (as they performed it) and has lots of short sketches, like cartoon scenes, from true stories, presenting many facts of the war, and horrifying statistics of the deaths..

In one scene, rich people are meeting on a grouse moor (Could it be a Yorkshire grouse moor?) They come in, one by one, carrying the flag of their country and wearing hats to denote their country - countries on both sides of the war. They want the war to continue so they can continue making profits by selling weapons.
(A grouse moor! - by the way, just last week  it was announced that another hen harrier a rare and threatened species- radio tagged has gone missing in the North Yorkshire Moors..  It was in the North York Moors National Park on 26 October 2018 when the signal was lost. The bird, named Arthur, is the ninth hen harrier to disappear in suspicious circumstances in the last 12 weeks, according to RSPB records.  Yorkshire moorland has a terrible reputation -it is sad.)


On Sat 17th November I had to go down to London for the Annual Members' Meeting of the national organisation  Green Christian. We were due to hear a talk by Bishop David Atkinson. Also we have a committee meeting before-hand. The AMM is an excellent chance to meet many other members.

Meanwhile.. A big group called Extinction Rebellion and a small group called Christian Climate Action were planning to have Non Violent Protests/ Direct Action, during this fortnight, to raise awareness about climate change and other ecological problems, and demand that the government do much much more to prevent climate change: with a big day on 17th November.  Ordinary demonstrations had not had enough effect. (Green Christian is a charity and is not associated with political groups.)

I checked on the internet and decided to go down by train from Lancaster (The trains in the NE of England and Skipton would be on strike that Saturday, as they have been on Saturdays for several months).  That Friday evening I was asked by Green Christian to send an email to participants who had booked to come to this talk to suggest they come by tube rather than bus since the Extinction Rebellion People were hoping to block the Thames Bridges.
 I packed for the morning including a big plastic drinking cup with lid - what a faff - Green Christian had asked us to bring drinking mugs in case not enough pottery cups were available at the church (and we were not going to buy disposable cups)
I left home at 5.15am and drove through the darkness along the roads - quiet at that time of morning - and arrived in Lancaster in plenty of time. But then (due to stupidity  on my part) could not find the correct car park - and by the time I had found it, I had missed the train.

Still - looking on the bright side - that gave me
1) Twenty minutes to do stretching and keep-fit exercises in a secluded part of the station
2) The chance to meet a gentleman sitting opposite to me on the train who was going to the British Pteridological Society Meeting  (Ferns) in Liverpool (topic Dryopteris). We had an interesting chat about ferns and about people we knew in common. Then I settled down to write italic name labels for the people booked in at our London talk

Once in London I went to Waterloo by tube. I decided I still had time to go to the Waterloo Bridge, 5 min walk from the tube station. The sky was blue, the sun was very bright, but the shadows very dark and difficult to see in the glare. As I approached the roundabout to the bridge I saw yellow diversion signs and police vans lined up.. and .... space ... no traffic going onto the bridge... the traffic just had to continue round the roundabout.

"Well, they've done it!" I thought. Extinction Rebellion have closed this bridge. "I wonder if they have closed the others."

I walked onto the bridge along with many other pedestrians and one or two cyclists. The parked buses turned out to be empty.

There was a crowd near the centre of the bridge.  

There was a put-up concrete barrier/wall separating the footpath from the road. 

In the road some were sitting, some lying on sleeping bags and many standing and a couple dressed in furry animal suits were  dancing. Banners were displayed at both ends of the crowd. A drum was playing. 

After a while there were shouts of welcome and flag waving as a new group of protesters arrived. 

A lady with a not-very-loud megaphone then explained various health and safety and legal issues, and how it was a peaceful demonstration. 

Lots of police were patiently standing at both ends. The humour of all the protesters was good. Lots of passers by and supporters took photographs.

The sun was bright, the sky and the Thames were blue and grey and white, the historic and new buildings lined the Thames.

I was mesmerised.

I thought " Isn't it marvellous that we are able to have demonstrations in this country.. in many countries people would be locked up or shot at.  The police were standing peacefully -
I thought of people in Syria - how their revolution had started including demonstrations maybe including young people like this, before it had started the war.

I thought "We - I - don't want every demonstration on every issue blocking the bridges.. 

But Climate Change IS a dire issue. 

We don't see the climate change effects much in this country -they are subtle - but they are accelerating. If we lived in California with the current fires in Paradise,  or Greenland and the Arctic where the ice is melting and leaving bare rock or sea, -- or near Lake Chad and Lake Baikal that are drying up .. We might be prepared to act faster.  

Beyond the protesters I could see the River Thames and the skyline of St Paul's Cathedral  still standing tall, but other churches and buildings now hidden or dwarfed by the towers of the banks and offices of Canary Wharf


The banks - where money dealings go on that allow investment in businesses - that fund machinery for drilling for oil, for transport, for fertilizers, for mining, for weapons... for cement.. all things which cause climate change.

The banks: - in four days time I would find myself at Settle attending the film "The Spiders Web" - Do watch it - It shows how London acts as a tax haven along with offshore tax havens where criminals and many of the world's richest 1 percent hide their money in trust funds - denying their own country the money that should be used for education, health and climate change mitigation preparation.

Historic buildings built when Britain was gaining its empire still line parts of the Thames.

And a group of 100 to 200 people (and growing) had blocked this bridge.

And maybe the other four bridges  were blocked too.

(They were. 
I later learned that Christian Climate Action were on Blackfriars Bridge, along with George Monbiot and other campaigners. )

Will the government listen?

Will other people listen?

Will they act?

.. but I had to go to the committee meeting..  I left the bridge, and after a 10 minute walk found St Andrew's church.

We concluded our committee meeting. People started arriving for our shared lunch. I got the italic name labels to give out.

One man I recognised with two young children came in and I made name tags for them . They had been at Blackfriars Bridge - I have just checked his blog - make wealth history

I made them labels too.. though they departed for the bridge again before our AGM.

Bishop David Atkinson gave his talk. I took some photos. He covered a huge array of topics. But He linked Jesus "I am" sayings with the UN Sustainability Goals .  

This next part of this post is a detour - but a worthwhile detour for someone coming down from "Up country"

After Bishop David's talk there was to be a long discussion workshop. I decided to go back to the bridges.  When I got there the people had gone (off to Parliament Square I later found, to attempt to dig up one or two paving stones to plant trees, and get arrested. )
I set of to walk north from here along the South Bank. I took photos of:

  • A homeless man in a sleeping bag, lying on the pavement under an umbrella, empty coca-cola can near his head as a tool for drug taking.  (The sad side of our civilised capital)
  • Then on a happy and interesting note:
  • Street entertainers and a crowd on the south embankment
  • Stalls there selling food from a variety of countries and lots of young happy people enjoying the late afternoon
  • A huge sand sculpture of a girls face on a sandy part of the shore. I gave two adjacent children some 20p pieces to aim down onto his bucket


  • Two people on the pebbles and cobbles of the shore of the Thames (tide out) in wellingtons searching for something.
  •  I climbed down to the shore line and walked over the mixed pebbles and short stretch of chalk bedrock to them 
  • and asked what they were looking for. He pulled out of the plastic bag two pieces of broken pottery. "I'm interested in history." he said.
But the tide was coming in. I returned to the meeting in time for the final prayers

After the meeting, and the hall had been cleared, a few of us went for a drink. The pub being too noisy we ended up at Costa Coffee.. to discover that my green plastic mug entitled at 25p discount!!.. 
I showed the group my rainforest cards and sold 6 more.

On the train on the way home I discovered that the same mug got me a 20p discount. Well Well! This would not have happened last year.
Safely back at home at 10 am, and super-tired, I downloaded my photos and sorted a few pics of Bishop David for Ellen Teague who may write an article
And went to bed. 

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