Note: I come to the text that follows by clicking on a link in an article on the Common Dreams website: “#WeWantToLive: Extinction Rebellion Launches Fresh Wave of Protests Demanding Climate Action”, by Jessica Corbett (https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/09/02/wewanttolive-extinction-rebellion-launches-fresh-wave-uk-protests-demanding-climate). It is what might be called a work of performance art, composed from letters written by some twenty-five children and youth and delivered, as part of a demonstration to mark the “tabling,” or introduction, of a climate bill to Parliament, by the nine children and youth named below.
The instructions given are to “Share, read, perform widely,” so today I feel compelled to share this text with you, my readers; because, upon reading through the heartfelt and eloquent poetry and prose of these young people, I have felt deeply moved by the rhetorical power of their collective action. And while the individual action of youth leaders like Greta Thunberg, who effectively began this global movement, deserves much praise, I am reminded by Angela Davis, in her book Freedom Is a Constant Struggle (Haymarket Books, 2016), that it is the collective movement which she inspired and is one part of that is most significant. “It is essential,” Davis writes, “to resist the depiction of history as the work of heroic individuals in order for people to recognize their potential agency as part of an ever-expanding community of struggle” (p. 2).
So I honor these brave youth, the ones who performed and those who risked arrest for inconveniencing the public by filling the streets. How else are they to get the attention of their too-often complacent adults and the government officials that they have elected?
Youth’s Letter to UK Government: Back the Bill; Protect our Futures
To be delivered to MPs and spoken by young people from Culture Declares Emergency, XR Youth, UK Student Climate Network, XR Families and the Almeida Young Company on 1st September, 2020, London Parliament. Readers: Cat Savage (17), Eden Rickson (20), Daniela Torres Perez (18), Kieran Taylor (20), Isioma Uche (12), Nate McCallum (16), Wren Savage (10), Frank Duncombe (6), Lyra Shipp (8).
For public release 2nd September 2020, the day the CEE Bill is tabled by Caroline Lucas MP.
Written by over 25 young people, from various Letters to the Earth sent over the past 18 months. This is their Letter to Power.
Share, read, perform widely.
#CEEBill #LetterstoPower #LetterstotheEarth
Wren: Dear Government, I’m confused about everything because when we warned you about the climate crisis you ignored us all!
Nate: I am so disappointed that the citizens of the UK have voted for you, YOU OF ALL PEOPLE!!!!
My specific problem is that recently (too late though) you declared a climate emergency!! What does that mean though? Is it just to make you look good? You have done absolutely nothing!!!
Kieran: No. Don’t walk away. Look at the facts. Look at them now. Due to the greenhouse effect, sea levels are rising. Ice caps are melting. Forest fires are scorching.
Lyra: You don’t care about the things that are a part of us. You are blind right now, and you should feel ashamed.
Daniela: Tell me how can we turn a blind eye to climate change when it is responsible for 150,000 deaths each year around the world? As if my natives and indigenous people from the Amazon are just obstacles or burdens, not people, like you and me. Whose homes are being taken away from them by major corporations that believe deforestation is just about cutting trees and do not dare to think about the consequences that it has on the hundreds of species of plants, insects, birds and mammals that vanish each day, for ever. Because, somehow, making money from businesses and properties has become more valuable than life itself.
Cat: Many of us are still too young to vote, yet WE will bear the burden of your choices; WE will be the ones to suffer for your profit; WE will pay the price for your inaction; and yet we are the ones who are out here doing the work, sacrificing our education, choosing to resist despite the cost. But we are exhausted. We are exhausted from standing here, begging you to listen to the science. We are sick and tired of running in circles, shouting at the top of our lungs and being met with a wall of silence from friends, family, the media and politicians.
Eden: The clock. Is. Ticking. And we are going to do something about it. We will resist, disobey, march and strike until you are unable to ignore us. We are here to stay and we youth will be silenced no longer. We are here today to tell you enough is enough – this is our future, and we are taking it back.
Kieran: How can we not act? We are the 5th richest country in the world, profiting from the environmental destruction of the counties WE colonised. It is an embarrassment that we are silent in the face of fires we lit. This isn’t just OUR future. It is the present of teenagers defending their land in the Amazon, from trees felled just so we can eat beef burgers in London. This is the present of the kids in lewisham where 6.5% of deaths are due to air pollution. You’re obsessed with growth and growth and growth, but if anything kept growing past its time it would buckle and die, even you or I, just like our earth. As long as statues stay up glorifying our whitewashed history, we are living a lie.
Isioma: I must say…
People were told that Covid 19 was spreading like wildfire and they stock up on food, medicine and toiletries. At the beginning of this pandemic, if you were to walk into a supermarket, the aisles would be empty. However, when people are told that the ice caps are melting and the sea levels are rising, we don’t seem to experience the same sense of urgency.
Nate: You may think the planet
Is not crying but it is
Mother nature is inside of us
She is all around us
She made us alive.
Isioma: I may be only twelve years old, but I care, and you should too.
ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ATTENTION!
Wren: I am scared and I’m sure you are too, I don’t want to live in a world where the Earth gets hotter every year. I don’t want to live in a world where the seas rise every year causing natural disasters to appear more frequently. How will we get enough oxygen without the trees? We could be at a tipping point and there will be nothing we can do. What will happen then?
Nate: We have the answers, the solution and the methods. The scientists found them, the children cry them, and the politicians ignore them.
Isioma: We have asked them, but they reply with a ‘speak to the hand cuz the face ain’t listening
Kieran: What makes me angry, is that nobody seems to care. It’s like watching a child drown, and instead of saving him, you slowly watch him sink, sink slowly to the ground.
Eden: They say they are making break-throughs In tech media and mental health
They say they care that they can help
Yeah let’s go green they say
They try to create, to make, to attempt to help
But they have already done too much
Daniela: To the people who think that there’s no point in trying, to the
people who think that because we have done this we deserve
to suffer the consequences. There’s no point in giving up!
Frank: Dear Sadiq Khan,
I am writing to you to ask you to protect the wildlings around us.
During the lockdown, less people have been driving, causing there to be less pollution in the air. Due to this I have seen birds of prey in Hampstead Heath and even above Holloway Rd.
My heart is warmed whenever I see a bird flying down and going back up with a worm in its beak. This worm would then feed baby birds meaning that bird numbers would rise. The babies would then grow to live a happy life.
One of the things that kept me occupied during the lockdown is climbing trees. I and many other children would not be able to enjoy this if they were cut down.
I am angered whenever I see a tree cut down or a lawn paved over. When a tree is cut down there is nothing to give us oxygen to breathe and to take away poisonous gases like carbon dioxide.
Nate: Cars! – cars are pretty much always used and always deadly because to run cars you need petrol/diesel/gas and when you drive them the gas will leave the car and rise up into the air causing our air also known as the thing we need to breathe to be toxic and deadly! we should start to ride bikes, scooters or even just walk and run and this will stop all the toxic gas from going into the air causing death and lung cancer.
Cat: Animals can’t help with climate change. Animals can’t stop driving cars which pollute the air. Animals can’t stop driving noisy speedboats and jet skis and cruise ships
Frank: If it has an affect on me, how much would it affect poor little innocent animals?
Isioma: When we are
watching the news, we see things about everything but the
detrimental effect we have on the environment. A few days ago
we could probably recite every little thing about Brexit. This shouldn’t
be the case!
My grandchildren may never see elephants or
tigers or sloths. They will never know what a rainforest is, or
clear skies, or beautiful lakes. But we can change that.
They deserve to have the same experience that I have at the
moment. But if we keep doing what we are doing, everything
will vanish in front of us. First the land, then the animals, then
Eden: Why do we let this happen
Ignore the problems
Ignore we all have the same origins
Push people away
Don’t let people stay
Afraid of a different belief or race
Fighting for the tiniest trace
Trace in history
History of what
Most psychopathic moment.
Who wins the prize?
Not the one saving lives…
We all have the same things keeping us alive
So instead lets hold hands and strive
I love the Earth
And everything that lives
I love the plants
And the beauty that each one gives
I love the animals
And the fishes in the sea
For I am a part of this earth
And forever this shall be
Everything is connected. Everything. Our planet is like one big organism, it’s one huge ecosystem and an ecosystem, like the mechanics of a watch, has exactly all the right pieces for it to keep running smoothly. Change one tiny cog, put one tiny part out of place and the whole system collapses. Everything is part of everything and we humans are not somehow separate.
We need to start working together.
I’m writing a letter because I want to tell you how I think we can make earth a better place.
The first thing we need to grasp is that this situation is bigger than what we understand, it is on a larger scale than anything we have ever faced before. It makes our human wars, our economy and social issues seem like such small irrelevant problems which, in the face of what is heading our way, they are. Let me ask you this: what use will your smart car be when there is no longer any clean air to breathe because we have cut all the trees down? What use will a ‘successful’ job be when there are simply no more resources? We are all still so stuck in all of our human problems and issues; fighting wars against each other; trying to keep our economy afloat; but what use will any of that be when food and water begin to run out or when there are sudden devastating weather outbursts and consistently rising sea levels and the remains of what used to be ice caps, when all the soil is too toxic to grow on any more from all the pesticides that have been sprayed on it for so many years, when all the rivers and water sources are contaminated with toxic chemicals. This is heading our way. This is imminent and absolutely real.
It is important that we develop a strategy here.
‘It shall be the duty of the Prime Minister to ensure that the United Kingdom achieves the following objectives in tackling the climate and ecological emergency:’
‘The strategy must actively reduce emissions to the lowest feasible levels, according to the best scientific evidence’
‘The strategy must include and take into account ALL of the UK’s consumption’
‘The strategy must NOT disproportionately impact deprived communities’
‘The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and all other appropriate Ministers of the Crown must take all appropriate measures to reduce the United Kingdom’s emissions, restore and regenerate its soils, biodiverse habits and ecosystems, and reduce its overall anthropogenic impact’
If, having pursued the strategy, the UK breaches it’s duties specified in the objectives, the Prime Minister MUST take steps to rectify the situation’
‘This Act extends to the whole of the United Kingdom’
‘This act comes into FORCE on the day on which it is passed’
- Dear Government. The time is now. Not in the next five, ten, thirty years. Now. Time has been wasted doing nothing – people have known we need to change for years. Nothing has. That’s why we are standing up and making our voices heard. Don’t tell us to stay at school, because we are clearly educated enough to recognise that something needs to be done. This is an emergency.
Stop fracking up our future, because you are not the ones who will have to live in it
- Please. I beg. She begs. He begs. Greg from work begs. Pat from school begs. Johnny from Sainsbury’s checkout begs. We all beg. On behalf of our planet, we beg.
- Don’t be the person who is standing back watching other
people as they do the work.
Do not be afraid because we are younger than you, do not be intimidated by age differences.
- We will not let the earth we live on be destroyed so easily.
- Dear British Government, Since I am not old enough to vote, I feel that it is necessary that I remind you that you alone hold our fate and our future children’s fate in your very hands
- This leaves us youths in the position of asking the important question: Are you willing to do anything about it?
You may think that you are simply one small positive droplet in an ocean of troubles. A droplet that can’t do anything. But if you search our ever expanding ocean you will find millions of other small droplets with the same mindset as yourself. Together you form a sea in an ocean. That sea can stir a storm. That sea can make a change.
We are waiting for change before it’s too late.
- Help me catch our world: save our planet.