‘Hope dies. Action begins’ – guest blog post
Image: Protestors with my poster © laurence b.
Artist, researcher and curator Fiona MacDonald : Feral Practice shares her experience on attending an Extinction Rebellion demonstration, alongside her thoughts on climate change. Fiona worked with Invisible Dust as part of Encounters in July 2018.
I turned fifty a few weeks ago, an occasion which can provoke a modicum of reflection as to one’s purpose and contribution. During my lifetime, human actions have resulted in the loss of 60% of animal populations worldwide. We are filling the world’s oceans and sealife with plastic. We are on track for more than 3°C global warming by 2100, which will bring widespread death and destruction to all the living beings of the world. Whatever I, as an artist and as a concerned citizen have been doing to try to prevent this, it is clearly not enough. My work as an artist focuses on human-nonhuman relationship, with serious and playful and exploratory intent. I am privileged that this means I work with a lot of very well informed and big-hearted people. It makes the wall of indifference from the mainstream all the more shocking.
We have the technology and the resources to avert the disastrous future that is facing us. We know what to do. We simply lack the will to act. Which is crazy, no? I mean, I can see how the term ‘Existential Threat’ might conjure images of French philosophers wearing berets and sipping coffee, instead of the death and destruction it actually means… but surely our politicians know better? As 15-yr-old Greta Thunberg put it yesterday, it is wholly irrational and irresponsible for political leaders to ignore the biggest threat to their populations’ own futures.
On Sunday, after spending the last few weeks veering between despair and disbelief at the news, or trying – increasingly ineffectually – to distract myself from the horror, I saw a link to the Extinction Rebellion’s call for people to start a campaign of nonviolent direct action. Drawing on the historical examples of the Suffragist movement and the Civil Rights Movement, Extinction Rebellion’s website states: “If the government does not respond seriously to the our demands, civil disobedience will commence from 12th November. Now is the time because we are out of time. There is nothing left to lose. It is our right and our duty to follow our consciences and rebel.” This means being prepared to be arrested; even, potentially, a prison sentence. Which is very scary. I have never so much as looked at a police officer funny, and I am not brave. But I am getting desperate.
Image: Occupying the road © Fiona MacDonald : Feral Practice.
Yesterday, Extinction Rebellion submitted their declaration at a rally in Parliament Square. I get anxious in crowds, but I went to see what it was about, and whether I have it in me to be a part of this. I was deeply moved by Donnachadh McCarthy’s words, which echoed my own sense of shame and horror at my lifetime corresponding to this time of peak destruction. He said that, if he lives to be ninety, only 10% of the living biodiversity of the world that he shared the world with when he was born will still be alive. The grief this elicits can be overwhelming. The BBC’s Julia Bradbury was eloquent about the wall of resistance she faces when asking to cover facts around species and habitat loss in her nature programmes. Other speakers in the square who offered valued political support were MEP Molly Cato, and Labour minister Clive Lewis.
After two hours of songs and speeches, the assembled crowd was requested to walk slowly into the road between Parliament Square and the House of Commons, and then to sit down. I was at the front and so sat down near the far kerb, which proved to be a hotspot for police attempting to move people on. While we were occupying the road, George Monbiot gave a speech, of which I could hear nothing, because of the police shouting at us. Others followed, but I was concentrating on the police-protestor interactions happening around me. Somebody gave me a piece of paper with advice on what to do and who to call if I were arrested. Some protestors had locked themselves together and were lying a bit further down the road covered in wreaths. A campaign organiser asked if I would move there, because my placard was particularly pretty (yay, a good review). I was due at meeting at RCA, and I needed to know more about my rights and what I’m getting into before getting arrested, so I gave my placard to them and then slowly made my way out of the crowd.
The rebellion ‘proper’ begins on 12th November and there is a mass demonstration planned for Saturday 17th. There are training days in non-violent direct action and our legal rights as citizens, on the 10th and 11th. I will be there.
 BBC coverage of World Wildlife Fund report here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46028862
 Guardian article on latest IPCC report here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/oct/15/theres-one-key-takeaway-from-last-weeks-ipcc-report
 Swedish child-activist Greta Thunberg has been protesting government inaction on climate change by sitting outside the Swedish parliament building, on ‘school strike’. Her speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3YeSEhfJv0
 Extinction Rebellion: https://risingup.org.uk/XR/ https://www.facebook.com/ExtinctionRebellion/?ref=br_rs
Title: ‘Hope dies. Action begins’ from Extinction Rebellion website.