Extinction Rebellion
October Rebellion

The dust is settling on the XR October action in London and I think a period of reflection is now required. The numbers taking part in the occupations and the march were certainly higher than in April and on the whole the atmosphere was positive, supportive and determined (some 60,000 people took part in the October events). There was still an impressive range of age and a reassuring gender balance among those both leading and taking part in the protests, although as XR itself acknowledges, black and ethnic minorities are not as well represented and this needs to improve. The movement is very inclusive and recognises the need to support those taking part, encouraging people to help with catering, well-being, outreach and educational workshops (and it even provides composting loos when they’ve not been confiscated by the police!).

Indeed the policing tactics had changed significantly following the April Rebellion and the authorities had decided not to allow the various sites to settle in and become established. The police approach was far more aggressive with many protesters singled out for ‘snatch’ arrests, including young people who had decided not to put themselves in a position to be arrested (I trained for a role as a legal observer and was informed by a senior police inspector, that these people were targeted in order to spread alarm among social media users). Perhaps the crackdown could have been anticipated but it certainly seemed harder to engage with the public and to convey the need for urgent political action by MPs against the backdrop of harassment and widespread use of the 1986 Public Order Act to curtail peaceful protests.

I recognise that a lot of people believe that there is no justification for breaking the law, however I’m sure I’m not alone in reaching a point of exasperation after thirty years of washing yoghurt pots and recycling glass bottles to find that such little progress has been made. Corporations have successfully shifted the onus for tackling climate change onto the consumer and we now need action by government to force significant and rapid changes across the fossil fuel, energy and agricultural sectors (for a start).

Some October actions – such as the ‘1000 trees’ sapling forest, 650 of which had MPs names on and were collected in many cases by the MPs themselves – lead to good conversations and a chance for outreach. Other actions, however, such as climbing on the tube train at Canning Town, prompted a lot of criticism and must surely lead to questions about aims and tactics. XR has grown from an action involving 1000 people in London in October 2018 to a de-centralised global movement with affiliated groups in more than 60 cities around the world and has contributed to pushing the issue much higher up the agenda for the general public. We know that a global response is required but in the UK we can help map out a path for engagement and show solidarity with those people, primarily in the global south, who are already dealing with the impacts of climate change. After a week at Millbank, Victoria Street, City Airport and the BBC I felt pretty drained and emotionally raw but still convinced that it is urgently necessary to add my voice to the escalating chorus to ‘Act Now!’

Stone carved figures from 1320, part of the rood screen at Southwell Minster – I love my occasional visits here. In 700 years nothing’s changed and everything’s changed.

 

 

The dust is settling on the XR October action in London and I think a period of reflection is now required. The numbers taking part in the occupations and the march were certainly higher than in April and on the whole the atmosphere was positive, supportive and determined. However the policing tactics had changed significantly and the authorities had decided not to allow the various sites to settle in and become established. The police approach was far more aggressive with many protesters singled out for ‘snatch’ arrests, including young people who had decided not to put themselves in a position to be arrested (I also took a rota’d role as a legal observer and was informed by a senior inspector, that these people were targeted in order to spread alarm among social media users). Perhaps the crackdown could have been anticipated but it certainly seemed harder to engage with the public and to convey the need for urgent political action by MPs against the backdrop of harassment.

Some actions – such as the 1000 tree sapling forest, 650 of which had MPs names on and were collected in many cases by the MPs themselves – lead to good conversations and a chance for outreach. Other actions, however, such as climbing on the tube train at Canning Town, prompted a lot of criticism and must surely lead to questions about aims and tactics. After a week at Millbank, Victoria Street, City Airport and the BBC I felt pretty drained and emotionally raw but still convinced that it is urgently necessary to add my voice to the escalating chorus demanding that we Act Now!

1_0OVUPRR6UHobL7-HmxqS2A

In 1982, Richard Buckminster Fuller visited the New Alchemy Institute, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to open a new geodesic dome. Frail of body but still sharp of mind, the 87-year-old architect was something of a countercultural guru by this stage, thanks to his “spaceship Earth” philosophy and his forward-looking designs, not least the dome.

Lightweight, efficient, simple to construct and futuristic, domes became a hippy cliche in the 70s, but the New Alchemists’ dome was a little different. Designed by Fuller’s disciple Jay Baldwin, it was the first “pillow dome”: made of triangular panels of transparent plastic inflated with argon gas, which improved its insulation properties.

Inside the pillow dome was a miniature forest of plants, tropical fish ponds and a ripening fig tree. Fuller nodded with approval. “He said, ‘She’s beautiful,’” recalls Nancy Jack Todd, co-founder of the New Alchemy Institute (NAI), along with her husband John. “He turned around and said to John with this happy smile: ‘This is what I’ve always wanted to see: my architecture with your biology.’ He called the work we were doing ‘the hope of the world’.” The New Alchemists’ alternative was a harmonious system of organic farming, renewable energy, sustainable architecture, waste treatment and ecosystem restoration. No pesticides or chemicals, no fossil fuels, no waste, no pollution, low impact, energy efficient. In other words, they were doing 50 years ago what we’re now realising we should have been doing all along.

[In his interview for the article] rather than feeling bleak about the future, John Todd is surprisingly optimistic. He recently published a book called Healing Earth, part-autobiography, part-manual on how to save the world. Its opening line reads: “I am writing this book based on the belief that humanity will soon become involved in a deep and abiding worldwide partnership with nature.” Yes, the planet is in crisis, but rather than what the New Alchemists called “doomwatch science” – monitoring environmental decline – John Todd has always been focused on practical solutions. “The more we weave together the knowledge that’s been accumulated in the last 100 years, the more we can do things that we never dreamed of,” he says. “We don’t have to invent anything; we just have to pay attention to what’s been learned.”

1000

This is an extract from the Observer 30 Sept 2019 regarding the recently published books;
A Safe and Sustainable World: The Promise Of Ecological Design by Nancy Jack Todd
Living Lightly on the Earth: Building an Ark for Prince Edward Island 1974‑76 by Steven Mannell 

Discarded was a small solo print show at the Heart arts venue in Headingley, Leeds from March 2019.

In this series of monoprints, I have been particularly interested in taking an impression from discarded pieces of personal and family history. I’ve usually found these objects – photo albums, postcards, scrap-books and letters – in boxes of miscellaneous items at auction rooms. I am intrigued by the private and personal stories that are suggested by these once-treasured objects and yet unsettled by their abandonment and disposal.

 

IMG_0225-4_1340_c