Tag Archives: Greta Thunberg

Extinction Rebellion: Youth in UK speak truth to power

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.

http://www.letterstotheearth@gmail.com

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#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.

ALL:

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!

Wren:

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

us.

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

Lyra:

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

Kieran:

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.

Daniela:

We need to start working together.

Kieran:

Dear Earth,

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.

Cat

It is important that we develop a strategy here.

Eden

‘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:’

Nate

‘The strategy must actively reduce emissions to the lowest feasible levels, according to the best scientific evidence’

Cat

‘The strategy must include and take into account ALL of the UK’s consumption’

Daniela

‘The strategy must NOT disproportionately impact deprived communities’

Nate

‘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’

Eden

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’

ALL:

‘This Act extends to the whole of the United Kingdom’

‘This act comes into FORCE on the day on which it is passed’

Wren

  • 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.

Lyra

Stop fracking up our future, because you are not the ones who will have to live in it

Kieran

  • 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.

Daniela

  • Don’t be the person who is standing back watching other

people as they do the work.

Eden

Do not be afraid because we are younger than you, do not be intimidated by age differences.

Frank

  • We will not let the earth we live on be destroyed so easily.

Isioma

  • 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

Cat

  •  This leaves us youths in the position of asking the important question: Are you willing to do anything about it?

Nate

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.

Kieran

We are waiting for change before it’s too late.

Lyra

  • Help me catch our world: save our planet.

“… a multitudinous, joyous, and peaceful march …”

These momentous words – spoken this Saturday morning, October 26, 2019, by Chilean president Sebastián Piñera – come in response to the more than a million peaceful citizens who yesterday, October 25, swarmed the streets of the capital, Santiago, and other cities throughout the country in protest against rising inequalities and punishing economic policies. I have just had the pleasure of listening to the crucial part of his speech in Spanish. Here my rough translation:

“The march that we all saw yesterday, a multitudinous, joyous, and peaceful march, opens great paths and hope for the future. We have all heard the message. We have all changed.”

He goes on to speak of giving “true, urgent, and responsible answers to these social demands from all Chileans”; he also promises, “that if circumstances permit, it is my intention to lift all states of emergency within 24 hours of next Sunday”; and then, perhaps most significantly, he has asked all government ministers to step down so that he can put together a new cabinet best able to put into effect policies to best address those “social demands” of the people.

There are a couple of caveats there. But before I get to them, and to some pertinent background, I want to make clear my reason for this writing: because I am incredibly inspired by this latest action of more than a million Chileans – an action now praised by that the same president who, days earlier, had declared that the police and military forces he had unleashed on protesters were “at war with a powerful and implacable enemy” (Wikipedia, “2019 Chilean Protests”). Now, having discovered that his government, through its social and economic policies, was actually at war with the Chilean people, he has had a change of heart. It moves me deeply to see what an ultimately peaceful uprising of citizens can accomplish.

Particularly inspiring to me is the glorious picture of the masses surrounding and ascending a statue, holding up flags – mostly, Chile’s national flag – against the brilliant colors of dawn, at the bottom of my primary source-article at commondreams.org (https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/10/26/over-1-million-chileans-take-streets-demand-political-reforms-change-countrys ).

And naturally I hope that similar millions (millions and millions, consistently and persistently) can produce similar results in my much larger and more populous country. The climate strikes on September 20 and 27 brought out six or seven million people around the world; can we get as many in Europe alone, and more than that in the U.S.? I was a small part of the climate strike, traveling to Evansville, Indiana from my small town in mostly rural Perry County; my ability to travel is at present restricted, so I can’t join the masses in much larger cities: perhaps my writing, at least, will have greater impact, if only for a few.

So I am also inspired by the mass movement that Bernie Sanders has started, and that has been taken up in their own manners by such as the much-maligned and proportionally effective Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib; and I hope that a mass movement of bodies in the streets and at the ballot box will fill the House and Senate, not to mention the White House (and the many state and local races from which change percolates up!), with progressive Democrats and/or Democratic Socialists: show me some progressive Republicans these days and I will root for them, too. But what makes the movement successful – aside from the radical commitment to nonviolence – is the eloquence and the clarity of the rhetorical argument: and I don’t think there are many greater or more eloquent communicators, at the moment, than Bernie, Alexandria, Ilhan, and, of course, Greta Thunberg.

But to get back to the caveats in the Chilean president’s statement: first, the “if circumstances permit,” which must refer, I imagine, to the unfortunate destruction of property and violent confrontation with the police and military. I have read that some civilian death came of people dying in buildings that protesters had set on fire, and I find that appalling. Again I emphasize that the only revolution I support is nonviolent revolution such as occurred in the streets of Chilean cities yesterday. And I regret the unleashing of violence and death from either side. I wish it were not so.

But a couple of points about that. One, violence against people is, according to my set of values, a greater wrong than violence against property; though it would seem, according to many courtroom sentences, that life must be considered much cheaper than property: in particular if the property is owned by the wealthy and powerful, such as when climate protesters destroy the machinery involved in building the pipelines that threaten the safety of their water and our air. Even if they only turn off the valves, or like the recently convicted Plowshares 7 who “‘prayed, poured blood, spray-painted messages against nuclear weapons, hammered on parts of a shrine to nuclear missiles, hung banners, and waited to be arrested” – and who were not allowed, in court, to speak of the moral and ethical reasons for their action; such as, for example, that even limited nuclear warfare, as our own government is quite stupidly considering, could easily lead to the destruction of all humanity (“Because Federal Government Is Allowed to ‘Weaponize the Law,’ Plowshares 7 Found Guilty for Anti-Nuclear Protest,” by Eoin Higgins, Common Dreams) .

Two, in respect to the senseless destruction of even the rioters’ own neighborhoods – of their community’s limited wealth – in riots, I think of James Baldwin’s essay “Notes of a Native Son” about, in part, the 1948 Harlem riots, where he also considers the waste of all that destruction, that “It would have been better to leave the plate glass as it had been and the goods lying in the stores”: “It would have been better,” Baldwin writes, “but it would also have been intolerable, for Harlem had needed something to smash. To smash something is the ghetto’s chronic need” (see my blog essay of Sept. 21, 2014 for a much fuller treatment of Baldwin’s essay).

Likewise in any community boiling with barely suppressed resentment over the vast income disparities that exist in places like Chile, Brazil, and even the United States: when it boils over, destruction is probably inevitable. Thus the necessity of a strong rhetorical argument, as I mention a few paragraphs above, coupled with strong community outreach and organization to channel and redirect that rage in directions – nonviolent directions, one would hope – that might actually yield a more positive result.

If conditions permit,” then, is a possible escape clause that Piñera’s government might use to go back on his promise: any slight occurrence, even one provoked by police or military forces, or by saboteurs posing as protesters.

Then there is also the caveat of time. It isn’t clear to me if the “next Sunday” means tomorrow or the Sunday after tomorrow, but most likely the latter. That seems to me like an unnecessarily long time, one that adds to the possibility of some excuse not to go through with the promise. And there is always the question of who will the new cabinet consist of, and then what measures (or half or quarter measures) they will take to address those socioeconomic issues.

I remember how disillusioned I was when, at the beginning of 2009, Barack Obama assembled an economic team that consisted of the very criminals who had created the financial disaster: on the precarious assumption that, since they broke it, they were the ones to fix it. Even so, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and kept hoping for the best. Now I hear how he continues to boast to the oligarchs about how his policies sure delivered them the goods.

So the Chilean resistance will have to stay alert. Do everything possible to keep from a resurgence of violence, but also to call the government – with more millions back on the streets – on any bogus retreat from its commitment to change.

As do all of us. One of the sad lessons of history is that the same rhetorical arguments in favor of progressive democratic governance have to be reiterated, re-taught, and reinforced with each new generation. Because, without any doubt, the forces who oppose the people’s interest will be out in power to repeal any gains that we might have made.

That is the ultimate “forever war,” I suppose. The one that cannot possibly be escaped.