Newsletter 32: “Yet My Hunger for Change Propels Me”
November 27, 2019 by Extinction Rebellion
Dearest rebels, it’s been a time of quiet but intense struggle on the front lines of the rebellion.
Since Monday 18th November more than five hundred people have taken part in the Global Hunger Strike. From Israel to India, Ecuador to Australia, New Zealand to the United Kingdom, we have all been united in our pain and our desperate desire for change. Following in the footsteps of great change-makers and peace-bringers such as Emmeline Pankhurst and Mahatma Gandhi, rebels have chosen to go hungry as a mark of their love for the Earth and all the life that it harbours.
In the last few weeks we have also seen stark revelations in the realms of science and policy, bringing further urgency to our cause, and perhaps a little hope at the end of the tunnel. As the COP25 approaches, it is our duty to educate ourselves and be emotionally prepared for what needs to be done. Only we can bring the change we want to see.
We have an inspiring story from Arshak Makichyan, a brave Fridays for Future rebel who has been risking arrest on a weekly basis on the streets of Moscow since March. We have words from the heart of the Amazon, where members of Rebel Youth and the Internationalist Solidarity Network (ISN) met with indigenous groups and other environmental campaigners to take part in much-needed regenerative action amid a scorched and dying ecosystem.
Also, a message of reflection from the London October Rebellion and a piece from the New York Times about the narrative of climate breakdown and how the stories we tell can change the world we live in.
Finally, some breaking news, yesterday the European parliament declared a Global Climate & Environmental Emergency. This can only be a major step forward on the road to tangible change.
If you’d like to see previous newsletter issues, you can find them here.
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Global Hunger Strike
Over five hundred people across 28 countries have been on hunger strike since the 18th of November! Some brave rebels are going into their second week, including Palestinian rebel Shadi from XR Israel who has been on hunger strike for two weeks. Four rebels are on extended strike in the US, Ghana, Israel and Australia.
They act in solidarity with the millions who face hunger every day, and to highlight our food vulnerability in this crisis. If we don’t act now, billions will be at risk of starvation from climate and ecological collapse.
Sweden’s Environment Minister agreed to meet hunger strikers who had been bracing the cold all week in front of the Swedish Parliament. On Wednesday 20th, hunger strikers in The Netherlands sat down with officials from the municipality of Wageningen for a recorded meeting to push for tougher action on the climate and ecological crisis and several MPs came out to meet the strikers.
Six hunger strikers from XR Barcelona stationed themselves at Palau de la Generalitat, the headquarters of the regional government.
In the US, nine hunger strikers with XR Washington DC occupied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to demand that she stops blocking the passage of the climate emergency resolution. Nancy Pelosi did not meet the hunger strikers and they were arrested.
Hunger striker Eric shares: “My anger has left me and all I’m left with is sadness. The hunger has not left as I imagined it would. It gnaws at my stomach all day and all night with a relentless ache. Yet my hunger for change propels me forward. My suffering is nothing compared to what’s already happening, and is non-existent compared to what our future holds. My beautiful nieces and nephews will have to scramble for their survival run and wonder how we got here.”
In New York, hunger striking students at Columbia University demanded the University divests from fossil fuels.
Meanwhile in the UK, 263 rebels have taken part in the hunger strike, with seven rebels bravely going into their tenth day. In the midst of a general election, rebels are holding their hunger strikes in front of political party headquarters and asking parties and parliamentary candidates to support the Three Demands Bill and agree to meetings.
Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price is the first leader to meet with hunger strikers. Green party co-leader to meet strikers next Monday. Rebels have already met with senior figures from Labour and Liberal Democrats, with follow up leader meetings expected. The Conservative Party and Brexit Party have not responded.
The Global Hunger Strike builds on the achievements of recent XR hunger strikers in Italy. On October 15 they secured a meeting with Italy’s Environmental Minister. In August, an Italian rebel, Filippo Guerrini, forced Bologna’s city council to accept the Rebellion’s three core demands.
From Russia with Love (and Rage)
“I’m Arshak Makichyan, a 25 year-old climate activist. I graduated from Moscow Conservatory last year. I’m a violinist. But now I’m spending almost all my time on activism and thinking about what to do with my life.”
Being an environmental activist in Russia is a highly risky undertaking. We spoke to the incredibly brave Arshak, who has been risking his freedom since March on the streets of Moscow.
“In Russia you can be arrested for just gathering in a square with a few people if it’s not approved by the Government beforehand… It’s torture to live and to know that they can arrest you any day during the year. The worst thing is waiting for something bad to happen.”
On 25 October, “in spite of being refused permission by the Government, we striked as a group. There were three of us, standing in Suvorov Square with our posters, and we were arrested for this simple act.”
Read the full interview here.
Heart of the Amazon
2019 has been a devastating year for the Amazon – statistics show that deforestation in May 2019 was twice that of two years before, which is no coincidence considering Jair Bolsonaro’s regime.
Amidst this tragic news, rebels have risen to the occasion and made their voices heard through taking to the streets in nonviolent civil disobedience, as well as organising actions to assist conservation efforts in the Amazon.
This month, Alejandra and Robin from XR Youth & Internationalist Solidarity Network (ISN) travelled to Brazil to meet with the indigenous groups in the Amazon and conduct regenerative actions on the ground (such as replanting trees in the burned areas). They will soon be joined by other climate groups including Fridays For Future.
COP25 – A History, and an Invitation
25 years ago, in the spring of 1995, Berlin was host to the first Conference of the Parties (COP). The purpose of this meeting was to formally establish a list of legally-binding obligations for ‘developed’ countries to acknowledge and reduce the effects of man-made climate change. This meeting now takes place every year, and has been the setting for the negotiations of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
The Kyoto Protocol (2005) is an optional international treaty which aims to encourage parties to lower greenhouse gases. To date, 192 members have signed up to this treaty.
The Paris Agreement, signed in 2016, seeks to limit global warming. Under the agreement, there is a common target to maintain warming below 2c by 2100. There are no targets by when countries should cut their emissions. To achieve the 2 degree target countries set their own voluntary national targets. To date, 187 parties have committed, although Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement will come into effect in November 2020.
While some argue that progress has been made, actual change has barely begun. We demand tangible progress to mitigate the climate and ecological breakdown.
This year, a quarter of a century after that spring in Berlin, the COP is being held in Madrid from 2 – 13 December.
Rebels from 19 countries will make their way across Europe to join XR Spain in an international effort to bear witness to COP25. Rebels will raise the alarm with non-violent direct action to reach the hearts of those with the power to make systemic change on an international scale.
Join the Rebels Beyond Borders event on Facebook and let everyone know why you’re going by sharing on social media widely.
The Science and the Stakes at COP25
COP25 represents an opportunity for bold decisions that cannot be missed. Recent research shines a spotlight on the fact that humanity is at a pivotal moment in its history.
On Monday, a report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that concentrations of greenhouse gases have hit a record high, and the gap between targets and reality are “glaring and growing”.
WMO secretary-general, Petteri Taalas, said: “There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere despite all the commitments under the Paris Agreement. We need to translate the commitments into action and increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind.”
The authors of a paper due to be published in Environmental Research Letters, including Diana Urge-Vorsatz, vice-chair of IPCC Working Group III, present a more hopeful message.
They note that climate modelling has understated both the speed of warming and the potential for runaway scenarios, where feedback creates self-reinforcing changes we may be powerless to halt. But they also claim that progress and opportunities for mitigation have been underestimated, and while policy-makers are becoming aware of the former error, they seldom appreciate the latter.
The authors claim multiple factors, such as progress in efficient energy usage, have been overlooked in models that relate climate science to consequences, choices, and policies. Together with the unexpected recent uptake of renewable energy, this has shrunk the gap between the rates at which mitigation efforts were progressing, and what is needed to hit targets.
They say their findings open new prospects for the achievability, and social and economic acceptability, of the Paris Agreement goals, including its aspirational 1.5 C target.
Another study, from an IPCC expert group, published September in Science, lays out the effects expected at different levels of warming. Consequences at 1.5 C are no picnic, but 2 C would be much worse.
All ecological risks and human impacts (e.g. food availability, water scarcity) increase. Specific differences include losing “only” 70-90% of tropical corals rather than 99%, and 420 million fewer people frequently exposed to extreme heatwaves. The risk of tipping points remain low at 1.5 C but are “substantial and growing” as warming increases from 2 C to 3 C. Current projections show we are headed for over 3 C, and that assumes everybody adheres to existing policies and pledges.
The authors conclude “it is very clear there is an even more compelling case for deepening commitment and actions” for stabilizing global temperature at 1.5 C.
XR will be making every effort to ensure minds are focused and ambitions aspirational as COP25 unfolds over the coming days. And, most importantly, that contrary to some previous years, commitments are ambitious and binding. The science shows this is indeed a climate emergency, but there are also indications it is not too late. We can mitigate against truly apocalyptic outcomes, if we act boldly, and act now.
As we face an unprecedented planetary crisis, XR Rebels from around the world continue their inspiring actions.
Morecambe Bay, UK. Fifty rebels aged 7 to 70 made this 110m diameter representation of the XR logo in the sand to highlight the need for urgent climate action. Photo: Alison Cahn.
Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Palestine. Read a retrospective from October on the position of XR in Palestine.
Vancouver, Canada. Rebels demand that the University of British Columbia divest from fossil fuel investments.
Santiago, Chile. XR Santiago held its own assembly to discuss the complicated socio- environmental situation in Chile.
Paris, France. Indigenous Brazilians were in Paris to demonstrate against French institutions helping to finance destruction of the Amazon. They performed a protest dance outside the headquarters of the Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP).
Copenhagen, Denmark. XR Rebels in Denmark expose the naked truth about oil extraction in the North Sea at the Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities.
Venice, Italy. Following yet another devastating acqua alta flood on November 13, Venetian rebels perform a die-in.
Truro, UK. XR rebels protest a Cornwall Council decision to grant £10.32m of capital funding to the proposed Newquay spaceport in Cornwall. Photo: Ilya Fisher.
Reflections on the London Rebellion
Published in Open Democracy, we bring you some words from the frontlines of XR London during the October rebellion. In this article the author confronts head-on the mistakes made and lessons learnt during October.
Also, this week Netpol: The Network for Police Monitoring launched their independent report into the policing of the October International Rebellion. The report found police were far more interested in preventing the protests than in facilitating them. In doing so, they systematically discriminated against disabled protesters, routinely used excessive force and used their Section 14 powers to delegitimise protesters as citizens with rights. Read coverage here.
Finally, a message about the October Tube Action, brought to you by the Prison Liaison Team. Here is an explanation of the team’s history and purpose. Please read and share with those who you know had questions around the tube action and its origins.
New York Times. Narrative of the Climate Crisis
The New York Times looks at Extinction Rebellion’s effect on our collective attitude to the changing world: an article that explores our journey from stark realisation, through grief and anger, to the eventual decision that we can make a difference.
‘You cannot walk into a supermarket, fill up your tank or put on a winter coat without getting blood on your hands. We are all embedded in a civilization that wreaks havoc on the planet.’
Read in full here.
Rebel Radio returns every Wednesday from 4-8pm (GMT) covering news and issues around XR and the climate emergency including the ‘12 Days of Crisis’, Humans of XR, global weather reports and visions of the future.
With daily updates from the COP25 in Madrid beginning on 2nd December at 9am (GMT).
Global Climate Strike | 29th NOV
Rebels Beyond Borders: COP25 | 2-13th DEC | Madrid, Spain
Humans of XR
‘I am part of the Global Climate Hunger Strike. This is a measure of last resort. Humans are still overexploiting the Earth’s resources. Having already tried many other forms of protest with limited effect, I joined the 300 people who are hunger striking this week.
This hunger strike shows solidarity with people around the world who are starving, and yet it has nothing in common with real starvation. I am choosing not to eat but I am able to cover all my other basic needs.
I am aware of my privilege, grateful for it, and wish for it to be no longer a privilege but the norm.
I have been reducing my carbon footprint but I know my Western lifestyle still comes at a high environmental cost. We hunger strikers don’t claim to be perfect, nor better than anyone else. I am only trying to become gradually a better version of myself and make a positive contribution for all of us.
I have been hunger striking for five days. The hunger is fading but I feel very tired.
I am feeling grateful to XR Brussels’ Regenerative Culture team who have been actively supporting me from day one.
Over these five days I have been feeling sometimes motivated and sometimes disheartened. I know this action won’t change the world from one day to the next, but it will wake some people up. It is one tiny step in the long, complex process of saving life on this planet.
Sometimes it feels unfair: why I am putting myself through this although I’m not guilty, why do we have to go to such great lengths to clean up other people’s mess? But there is no such thing as the ‘guilty’ or ‘innocent’ ones in this situation.
We are all in the same boat. What we want is positive climate action. The ultimate goal is to slow down climate change, recreating the conditions for an environment that would be more welcoming to all living species, including ourselves.
In our interconnected world, production and consumption chains have become extremely long, thus diluting responsibility. Each individual feels that they are playing such a small part that they are not responsible for the harm that the whole chain is causing. Yet each individual along the chain (including me) is fully responsible for what happens throughout the chain.
I want people to wake up and realise that, and change their behaviour accordingly.
Humans collectively have caused unspeakable harm to our planet and to ourselves. That indicates how much power we have as a species. So let’s use that power now for the common good.’
We are receiving amazing human stories and we want to know yours. To read more – or to write your own – join our Humans of XR Facebook group.
Thank you for reading. There’s so much exciting stuff going on in the movement that we barely have time to write this sign-off. Keep up the good work! If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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