Calling all the polite,
well-mannered people I know:
now is the time to rebel.

Sophia Cheng / 7 min read / Newbie Activist Life
12 March 2019
AKA talking about climate change using Titanic gifs

Hi there,

Remember me? I was the short one with the long skirt, wonky teeth and glasses at school, hung out at the library and did the daily Sudoku puzzle.

Hi there,

Remember me? I’m the one that wanted to be everyone’s friend in first year, studied psychology but knew nothing about politics. Wouldn’t be seen dead at a protest and loved a good stint at Primark.

Hi there,

Remember me? I’m the one you hired, worked diligently and did overtime. The people-pleaser. The reliable one.

I hope you don’t mind that I caught your attention. It’s just that, um, there’s something I’ve been wanting to say.

We might be on a different course in life these days but the thing is, we’re actually all in the same boat together. And it’s sinking.

I want to talk about climate change.

Stay with me, now, just for a few minutes if you will. Here’s what I mean:

I mean the things we take for granted every day. The bananas in your muesli, the coffee you put through your V60 filter, the chocolate you treat your kids to, the fish next to your chips, the woodlands at the end of your garden. And those avocados every one goes on about. Or the holidays we take to Bali, your honeymoon to Mauritius and the lovely city hops to Amsterdam and Bruge.

Those everyday things and the treats; they’re no longer a given.

Maybe I could appeal to your logic and say I know you know this too. You’re all intelligent, educated people. You know that we can’t live like this forever. We’ve been running on empty for a while now. I could point you to this study that says we can only burn 20% of the fossil fuel reserves we know about to keep the planet habitable – but our emissions are still rising.

Or maybe as we’re a bit older now, I could talk about feelings – say that I’ve gone to bed miserable at the prospect of all that we will lose. Felt a conflict within me as I basked in February’s warm rays. Or about the tears I have shed listening to 15 year olds talk about the state of the planet. The worry I have about your as-yet unborn child. The worry I have about having a child myself. They’ve got a word for it now; eco-grief.

They say it’s too late for hope, we’ve been hoping the knight in shining armour is going to save us cause we’ve been force-fed Disney storylines.

There is no one coming to save us.

Guys, we are fucked.

Even the most conservative of estimates show that we’re already on target for a 3 degree rise in global temperatures by 2100. Probably more.

Stop there a second. Pause.

That means anyone born this year is likely to be living in a world of 3 degrees warming based on average life expectancy (2015 data). So these dates aren’t some far off, children’s children’s children – this is your child, or my child. Just born or soon to be.

If we don’t do anything, here’s how scientists predict the world will look and feel like:

“London and the rest of southern England would face repeated heat waves, every year seeing temperatures that now seem unimaginable…. London could reach 48C. The intense heat could kill thousands of ill and elderly people. Water would arrive in shorter more intense deluges meaning more flooding and perversely, more water shortages… farmers struggling to find enough water for their crops.” Projections show that 5-10% of the British population will be affected, meaning many of us will have to migrate domestically.

And we’ll be the lucky ones.

Globally, it’ll mean a billion climate refugees by 2050. For those with less infrastructure than ours it’ll mean food and water shortages and conflict. “If emissions don’t fall, sea levels would likely to increase by half a meter,” adds Barasi…and that’s without looking at the large ice masses melting. And don’t forget the animals and insects; we’re on course for a global mass species extinction.

Or to quote one of my favourite films of all time, we’ve put on all the boilers while “holding the iceberg warning in [our] hands, [our] god damn hands.”

Doesn’t sound great does it?

We have 12 years to try and curb things. We think. There are more than 60 feedback loops (like the albedo effect) that interlink, if a few of those fall we’ll hit what’s termed ‘runaway climate change’. We can’t reverse what we’ve already done but we can slow it down. Someone’s described it as “the fight for a better catastrophe.”

And here’s the good news (yes, there is some) we have all the technology and resources to tackle this. The only thing we lack is political will. And time of course.

It’s been a real challenge to allow that to really sink in (pun intended).

How I got out of…depression was that I thought: it is just a waste of time feeling this way because I can do so much good with my life.
Greta Thunberg

Here’s what I’m doing about it:
I’m joining the rebellion

That’s the Extinction Rebellion to be specific.

In Gail Bradbook’s talk, she references political philosopher, John Locke’s “Right to Revolution.” “When a government fails to protect the lives and livelihoods of their citizens – as in the case of climate change – the people have a right to rebel.”

Gulp. I’m pretty obedient. If you’re in a suit, older than me, a man, talk more articulately than me or are wearing a uniform – I do what I’m told. But I’m trying to unlearn all that now. Connect with my gut and stick to my guns.

This is an emergency.

Now is the time to make a fuss. To be disruptive.

Call the government to account. Pull the reins from the powerhouses that have been trying to obscure us from the science since the 70s.

I’ve been slowly (and falteringly) working towards better individual action; eating less meat and dairy, reducing waste, flying less (yes I see the hypocrisy, I have a huge carbon debt), changing my bank, using a Mooncup (!), donating to effective projects etc. But it won’t be enough, we need a systems change.

And so, there’s nothing else for it: the gloves are off.

No more Miss Nice Girl. (Sorry mum).

I’m considering getting arrested and I’ve been going to training about non-violent direct action, learning about my rights and the possible consequences to being a ‘conscientious protector.’ I’m in the privileged position of being a UK citizen and white(ish), so now it’s time to use it for something bigger than personal gain. Extinction Rebellion is built on robust, well-researched foundations, adhering to core principles and I’ve been moved by life-long activists talking about this being the movement of our generation.

Even if there’s no hope left, we must do what we can.
Greta Thunberg

Extinction Rebellion is rallying a groundswell of people for an ongoing series of civil disobedience across the UK and internationally. In the UK specifically, they want to force the government into a dialogue, to tell the truth about climate, “enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025” and demand a Citizen’s Assembly to “to make the bold, swift and long-term changes necessary.”

I’ll be there on April 15th for International Rebellion. And everyone’s invited.

There will be music. And the revolution will be televised. Or at least streamed.

Please drop me a line if you have any questions. I might not be able to answer all of them but I can point you in the right direction.
Find out more:

Activist training festival in Bristol: Spring Uprising

Find an XR event in your local area:
If you’re time-poor you might consider donating to enable sustained activity.

Avatar photo Sophia Cheng With a decade of communications experience across the for profit and nonprofit sectors, agency and in-house, Sophia has made a habit of making ‘the hard stuff’ more accessible. Since 2018, she has reorientated her life around the climate crisis. She has forged her decade of communications experience into offering workshops, mentoring, blogging, and more, on the biggest issues of our time. View all posts
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