The world-wide Autumn Uprising protests by Extinction Rebellion began on October the 7th. Extinction Rebellion state “We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making.” (1)
This essay will explore some of the scientific evidence, state the three demands of Extinction Rebellion and express some of the reasons that members of the public have decided to protest in London with Extinction Rebellion.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Global Environmental Outlook (GEO) back up what Extinction Rebellion state. Joyce Msuya, the Acting Executive Director, UN Environment, writes “In this drive towards a green economy, greater sustainability and the hope that we can thrive rather than survive, there has never been a more critical moment than now. The science and the data are crystal clear on the multitude of challenges that we face, but also the small window of opportunity we have to turn things around.” (2) The report goes on to say “The warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as evidenced by observations of increases in global temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and increased environmental degradation.” (3)
Scientists, world leaders, the media and the public have known about global warming and climate change for many years, but over the past six to twelve months the terminology has changed. Instead of hearing about global warming and climate change, the message has altered to climate emergency and global heating.
Anon (photo above) says “I remember in the 1970’s, when I was a teenager, hearing somebody on some talk show, speak about global warming, and I remember as a kid thinking ‘what is this all about’, and here we are almost 40 years later, and now it’s a reality.”
In 1992 the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote” The Worlds Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” (written by Henry Kendal and signed by over 1,700 scientists). It highlighted and warned about the irreversible damage that human beings are causing the natural world. The report states “Our massive tampering with the world’s interdependent web of life—coupled with the environmental damage inflicted by deforestation, species loss, and climate change—could trigger widespread adverse effects, including unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems whose interactions and dynamics we only imperfectly understand. Uncertainty over the extent of these effects cannot excuse complacency or delay in facing the threats.” (4)
Almost every day the media has a new report based upon a recently released piece of scientific research, often declaring that the state of the ecology is more precarious than previous models had shown. A recent study by Eric Rignot found that “Antarctica now sends six times more ice plunging into the sea each year than it did in 1979.” (5)
The rate of climate change has even evoked fears within the scientific community. Professor Sir David King stated as much to the BBC recently and his fears were supported by other climate scientists. (6)
Marlowe Hood wrote an article which was titled “Earth warming more quickly than thought, new climate models show.” Hood explains how continued burning of fossil fuels are warming the environment at an alarming rate, and that global heating will happen at a higher rate than expected, and to reach the Paris Agreement global warming cap of less than 2 degrees Celsius is increasingly unlikely, and unless urgent action is taken to reduce carbon emissions, then global warming could reach 7 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels by 2100. Hood notes that “With only one degree Celsius of warming so far, the world is coping with increasingly deadly heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones made more destructive by rising seas.” (7)
Mike, who had travelled from Cornwall to be with Extinction Rebellion for one week said “The rate of change is rapidly accelerating, crisis is closer than most would realise.”
Evidence of the climate emergency are seen in global temperature rises, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreats, decreasing snow cover, sea level rise, declining artic sea ice, extreme events (wildfires, tornados, rainfall, heatwaves, blizzards, ice storms, dust storms, droughts (8)) and ocean acidification (9)
The evidence is becoming clearer each day. It would be unfair to say that governments are not acting, but it also shows that the action taken is minimal, and not in line with what is required to limit global CO2 emissions quickly enough to prevent a planetary catastrophe. These actions have also only decreased the United Kingdom’s CO2 consumption by 10% (CO2 emissions have reportedly been cut by 42%. CO2 emissions are the amount of CO2 by national industrial activity and consumer usage, whereas CO2 consumption includes the CO2 produced elsewhere for goods and utilities that are imported). (10)
It is the lack of credible action by the UK Government, along with the failure of the Government and the media, which have fuelled Extinction Rebellion’s Protests around the world, and in London in April and October 2019. The failure to take appropriate action is why Extinction Rebellion feel that civil disobedience is the only course which could push the Government into adopting suitable climate policies.
Willy, an environmental scientist with Extinction Rebellion believes the Government is fully aware of the action they need to take, but are only paying lip service too. He says “There is a disconnect from what we know and how we act, civil disobedience seems to be the only way we can deal with the urgent crisis.”
Extinction Rebellion declare “We believe the government has failed to understand the severity of this crisis. We believe that we must now take radical action to reduce the very worst effects of climate breakdown and, in doing so, reform and extend our broken democracy. We therefore have three key demands: 1/ the government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change. 2/ the government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero by 2025. 3/ the government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.” (11)
The protests in London have been mass, non-violent civil disobedience and have had a diverse following. Protestors have included scientists, ecologists, MP’s, the medical profession, and people from all generations, races and socio-economic backgrounds. Doctors for Extinction Rebellion marched from Lambeth to Trafalgar Square on Saturday. Jo from Doctors for Extinction Rebellion explained that their March was in relation to air pollution in the UK. She stated that “Over 40,000 people per year, in the UK, die as a result of the air pollution which is way beyond legal levels.”
David Boyd, the UN’s special representative on human rights and the environment “criticised the UK government for ‘failing its citizens by producing air quality plans so weak that they breached its legal duty’.” (12)
It is of note that respected medical professionals who have flourishing careers are willing to be arrested because of their concern about the lack of urgent action by the government. This highlights the seriousness of the climate emergency, and demonstrates that the crisis is not in some distant future. People around the world, and in the UK are dying now.
The civil disobedience by the protesters in London has seen people block major roads around London including Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Millbank and outside of The Bank of England.
Marjorie expressed her views on civil disobedience, stating “We’ve been writing letters, talking to our MP’s for decades, nothing has changed. We’ve got to do something to make them act.” Marjorie’s views are precisely the reason Extinction Rebellion has chosen the civil disobedience method. This is a technique inspired by the action and writing of Henry David Thoreau, and most was most notably evidenced by Martin Luther King, and Gandhi. (13)
Extinction Rebellion state “We have to be clear. Conventional campaigning does not work. Sending emails, giving money to NGO’s, going on A-to-B marches. Many wonderful people have dedicated years of their lives to all this, but it’s time to be honest. Conventional campaigning has failed to bring about the necessary change. Emissions have increased by 60 per cent since 1990 and they are still going up, increasing by 2.7 per cent in 2018. Looking at that thirty years of appalling failure, the reason is clear. The rich and powerful are making too much money from our present suicidal course. You cannot overcome such entrenched power by persuasion and information. You can only do it by disruption.” (14)
Non-violent civil disobedience does interrupt the normal ebb and flow of life in a city. It has an impact upon people’s livelihoods, businesses and has an impact upon the economy. It is believed that this kind of action will make life so uncomfortable for the government that they will be forced into taking substantive action on the climate emergency.
Dave, a member of the public and not linked to Extinction Rebellion, and who wasn’t protesting had a positive view of the protests. He said “It’s a good way to promote change. Change doesn’t necessarily happen without some kind of moving force. It’s got to be done I think. The fact that people are willing to be arrested shows that serious change is needed, if it means that much to people.”
The level of policing is another interesting facet of this March. If we cast our minds back to the Poll Tax riots in 1990, we note that despite the protests being violent there were only around 400 arrests. This was despite the police noting that around 3,000 of the 200,000 protesters had committed acts of violence. (15) Extinction Rebellions Autumn Uprising has seen over 1,750 arrests. It’s hard to get one’s head around why a non-violent and peaceful protest has led to this disproportionate level of arrests. Anon, quoted earlier in this essay, went on to say “it’s a good sign actually, for these kind of movements, when that starts to happen, it sucks but it’s a good sign. It means it’s starting to ruffle the right kind of feathers.”
Despite the argument that it is too expensive to immediately take action to achieve the Paris Agreement figure of 2 degrees C, the reality is that, worldwide, there would be a saving of around double what was spent. Climate change is expensive in terms of human suffering, sickness and death, these have major impacts upon the economy, as do intervening in and clearing up after wildfires, droughts and other climate disasters, not to mention the civil collapse, civil war, displacement, supporting refugees and managing immigration. The Co-Chairs message in GEO 6 states that “The health benefits from reduced air pollution of achieving the 2 degrees Celsius target could be 1.4 – 2.5 times the cost of mitigation, the higher figure involving benefits of $US 54.1 trillion for a global expenditure of $US 22.1 trillion. (16)
The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney expressed similar concerns this week during an interview with the Guardian, saying that “Companies and industries that are not moving towards zero-carbon emissions will be punished by investors and go bankrupt, the governor of the Bank of England has warned.” The same article went onto state “The Bank of England has said up to $20tn (£16tn) of assets could be wiped out if the climate emergency is not addressed effectively.” (17)
The scientific eveidence is clear. We must sieze this small window of opportunity to take the drastic action required. If we do not, then we are walking face first into an irriversible ecological catastraphe, which will make it impossible for humans to survive on this planet.
It is clear that we are now in the middle of a climate emergency. People and animals are dying, ice sheets are melting and fires are burning. We are walking towards mass extinction and causing irreversible harm to our only home planet. If we do not act now then it will be too late.
Richard Keys photosociology.photography
1 Extinction Rebellion; 2019; The Truth: Online; AT https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/
2 United Nations Environmental Programme; 2019; Global Environmental Outlook, Healthy Planet, Healthy People; Online; AT https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/global-environment-outlook-6 pp XXVII
3 United Nations Environmental Programme; 2019; Global Environmental Outlook, Healthy Planet, Healthy People; Online; AT https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/global-environment-outlook-6 pp 24
4 Union Of Concerned Scientists; 1992; World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity; Online; AT https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/1992-world-scientists-warning-humanity
5 Fox, A; 2019; East Antarctica’s ice is melting at an unexpectedly rapid clip, new study suggests; Science Mag; Online; AT https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/east-antarctica-s-ice-melting-unexpectedly-rapid-clip-new-study-suggests
6 Harrabin, R; 2019; Faster pace of climate change is ‘scary’, former chief scientist says; Online; AT https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49689018
7 Hood, M: 2019; Earth warming more quickly than thought, new climate models show; Online: AT https://phys.org/news/2019-09-earth-quickly-climate.html
8 Carbonbrief.org; 2019; Mapped: How climate change affects extreme weather around the world; Online; AT https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-how-climate-change-affects-extreme-weather-around-the-world
9 Shaftel, H et al; 2019; Climate Change: How Do We Know?; Online; AT https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
10 Schraer, R; 2019; Climate change: Is Greta Thunberg right about UK carbon emissions?; Online; AT https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/science-environment-48025650
11 Farrell, C, Green, A, Knights, S and Skeaping, W; 2019; This Is Not A Drill, An Extinction Rebellion Handbook; London; Penguin Random House pp 11
12 DEFRA group press office; 2019; World Environment Day 2019; Online; AT https://deframedia.blog.gov.uk/2019/06/05/world-environment-day-2019/
13 Eschner, K; 2017; Martin Luther King and Gandhi Weren’t the Only Ones Inspired By Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience’; Online; AT https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/martin-luther-king-and-gandhi-werent-only-ones-inspired-thoreaus-civil-disobedience-180963972/#GYesEkjvAJZBlCXE.99
14 Farrell, C, Green, A, Knights, S and Skeaping, W; 2019; This Is Not A Drill, An Extinction Rebellion Handbook; London; Penguin Random House pp 100
15 independent.co.uk; 2010; The Battle of Trafalgar Square: The Poll Tax Riots Revisited; Online; AT https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-battle-of-trafalgar-square-the-poll-tax-riots-revisited-1926873.html%3famp
16 United Nations Environmental Programme; 2019; Global Environmental Outlook, Healthy Planet, Healthy People; Online; AT https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/global-environment-outlook-6 pp XXIX
17 Carrington, D; 2019;Firms ignoring climate crisis will go bankrupt, says Mark Carney; Online; AT https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/firms-ignoring-climate-crisis-bankrupt-mark-carney-bank-england-governor
Relapse is an all consuming and powerful force. I feel like I’m a surfer on a giant wave, with no ability to either stop or slow down. At some point I will reach the beach and be thrown off of my board, but that’s such a long a way in the future.
I’m currently eating one ciabatta or panini per day. I’ve been prescribed fortisip, but I cannot face the additional 300 calories that a bottle would give me. I know that may sound stupid, but I can’t do it. I’ve stood at the open fridge staring at the bottles, but I can’t do it.
My weight loss has slowed down, which will be for two reasons, one) initial weight loss is mostly water, two) my metabolism will have already slowed down. I find this stage demoralising, I know the speed of weight loss will increase again and I’m holding out for that.
Severe restriction of food intake creates a voracious interest and obsession with food. This isn’t just for people with anorexia, it happens to non eating disordered people who are forced to starve. (see the Minnesota starvation experiment). I fantasise about eating meat and I can’t help but compulsively buy carbohydrate rich foods, despite knowing that I won’t eat them.
I’m horrified by how much weight I have put on in recovery. I want my bones back.
There are times that I feel painfully out of control, and others where I feel so deeply in control of my restrictive behaviour, it’s an intensely enriching buzz. But I have a long way to go before I lose enough weight so as to be underweight again. Sometimes I want to recover, and I still attend 12 step recovery groups, but the desire to get thin is paramount.
I’m not sure whether blogging about my relapse helps me or not, I’m undecided. But my blog is an honest account of my experiences, it’s one of the things that I do, and I enjoy doing. I certainly have enjoyed adding some recent photos into the text.
Maybe one day I will be as light as a bird again.
Until then, be strong and prosper.
UK Based Eating Disorder Charities
International Eating Disorder Charities
Peer Support groups
Two vlogersI have found useful who are in recovery or recovered
Fuck, life is hard at this moment in time. I’m experiencing intense paranoia, suicidal thoughts and severe relapse with anorexia.
Yesterday I struggled so much that I went back to bed, which is something that I never do. Today the paranoia and fear were so intense that I couldn’t stay in. I’m paranoid that my neighbours are going to attack me, so I packed my camera and went out. Thank god for photography, it’s saved me on many an occasion.
Suicidal thoughts are building up, which is linked to the paranoia. I was in a building today which had a viewing gallery on the tenth floor, which is open and has an easily climbable fence. I looked down, imagining jumping, which sent shock waves of fear along my legs. I didn’t do it, I can’t do it, but it’s a venue logged in my mind.
As for the anorexia, I had two weeks of eating a ciabatta with either peanut butter or marmite per day, and since then I’ve not eaten anything for eight days. I know that not eating anything at all makes it harder for the paranoia and suicidal thoughts to dissipate, which I don’t want, but I can’t eat. I’m obsessed with food but I can’t eat, can’t do it.
I feel completely fucked.
However, I am doing things to cope.
I’m doing what I can right now, I’m doing my best, and this too shall pass.
Anorexia is such an insidious illness. I relapsed a couple of weeks ago, and I’m still in it.
The weight gain in my recovery simply got too much for me to bare. I’ve tried so hard, and I’ve stuck to my nutritionist plan. However, I’m on 4 psychiatric medications and these slow the metabolism down and their side effects include weight gain.
I’m restricting my food intake again, down to 1 ciabatta per day, and now I haven’t eaten anything since Wednesday afternoon. I know the risks of malnutrition and starvation but I have become assessed with target weights and becoming thin again. I don’t want to eat and no one can make me. Encouragement will only increase my sense of defiance.
I believe that I’m so sensible and intelligent in many ways, but not when it comes to my eating disorder. Initially I asked my mental health team for an eating disorders dietician, but now I don’t want to engage with one. If I had a dietician and they agreed for me to lose weight, they would only sanction a 2lb per week weight loss. I’ve lost 14lb in two weeks so there is no weigh I’m going to slow the weight loss down.
What a bizzare illness.
It’s such a relief and joy to have spent more time with a camera in my hand recently. Since coming out of hospital my energy and physical health have lowered opportunity and motivation to take my cameras out with me. Canary Wharf was the first Photography trip, and I’ve been out recently as well.
I’m getting used to my camera, settings and operation again. However, I feel my “eye” is good.
Here’s a couple of recent photos, taken on my Olympus OMD EM10 MK III
New Zealand against South Africa was a wonderful cricket match, and I had a great time with my friend P. I only took my phone with me as I am not ready to carry a big heavy bag around with me at the moment. Here are a couple of shots from the day, as well as one or two other recent points of interest.
Back in March I tried to end my life, although on this occasion I didn’t want to die. I have long term mental health problems, and one of my symptoms is suicidal ideation. When the thoughts became so bad that I was scared that I was going to act upon them, I asked for help. The support that I recieved was OK, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
This wasn’t the first time that I had tried to commit suicide, but it was the first time that I hadn’t wanted to die whilst the intensity of suicidal thoughts built up. I’ve been in a coma before, my next of kin has, on previous occasions, been told to prepare for my death, that I would not make it through the night. However, this attempt to end my life has had some serious physical and mental consequences. I’ve added some suicide helplines at the foot of this post.
The ambulance took me to the Whittington. I was stabilised in A and E and then transfered to the critical care unit. The doctors informed my friends not to expect me to make it through the night.
My photo’s of my time in the Whittington are limited, and from when I was well enough to be sent from the critical care unit to a general ward.
I had no intention of creating a photo documentary at this point. I took the photos because I loved the views of London.
My overdose left me with pneumonia on my lung, which turned into a septic abscess. This needed to be removed so I was transfered to the Heart hospital.
The surgery which I needed to undergo was complicated. The abscess released the poison into my blood stream and this lead to a cardiac arrest. My heart stopped for three minutes, again it was believed that I wouldn’t pull through. My cousin took this photograph when I had begun to awaken out of the sedation.
I needed to have a central line as part of the operation. Central lines enable the delivery of IV fluids during and after an operation. The catheter goes into the superior vena cava.
To perform a thoracotomy an incision needs to be made from underneath the arm pit, around the side of the body and under the breast. The surgeon can then access the lung.
The chest drain was painful and uncomfortable, but a necessity to drain fluids from the chest. I also required five pints of blood to replace what I had lost.
I don’t have the large veins in the arm that most people do. It’s so difficult to put a cannula into me because they need to go into tiny superficial veins. They also dislodge very quickly with me, so I needed them replacing often. There were occasions which cannulisation required an anaesthetist to use an ultrasound to find a vein.
The quality of care was incredible and I found the whole staffing team to be amazing, supportive and empathetic.
Post-op it took me over a week to get on my feet. Physically I was very weak, but having the chest drains and a urine pot from catheterisation meant that movement was limited anyway. Once they were removed I was filled with relief to be able to move.
Other injuries that I have as a result of my overdose are pressure ulcers. I developed four of these whilst I was unconscious in the time between trying to take my life and the police being called. I developed the one above whilst under sedation. I’ll write more about these below as well as show a couple of photos of the ulcers.
I lived in this chair, it was my refuge and the beginning of my recovery. But the chair was also a place of vulnerability. Ward round was a necessary daily occurrence, but I also felt trapped and cornered with up to seven people surrounding me.
Looking at this photo now I feel some fondness towards the bed. I slept in it at all hours throughout the day and night. I was so exhausted that during visits from family and friends I would still go to bed and sleep. I could only lay on my left hand side and I was scared of falling out of bed. It was difficult to get into a comfortable position because I didn’t have the strength to pull myself with just my left arm. I could use my right arm at the time.
I still struggle with exhaustion today. I’m having to really listen to what my body needs. Listening to my body is one of the many silver linings from my experience.
With five pressure ulcers I’m unable to take a shower. A sit down strip wash was all that I could, and can manage.
￼Moving from one hospital to another and being on four different wards meant that my family and I gave up on trying to put clothes and belongings into drawers and the wardrobe.
I hate feeling trapped, it scares me and leaves me panicky. I was unable to leave the ward for around two weeks post surgery. It was impossible because I was so unwell. But as I got my strength back I was aloud to go out for 20 minutes at a time. This helped to reduce my anxiety.
Once I left hospital I was so weak as to be incapable of doing anything other than basic functioning. I had a friend stay with me for the first week, and then I want and stayed with my cousin. I’m still recovering, but I’m most grateful for P and L for making life easier. L’s art and craft room became my home during my recuperation.
Asking for help/accepting help is not something that I do. I’m a hermit, I live alone and I do everything for myself. Being so unwell has meant that I’ve had to ask for help from P and from L. The thing is that my belief is that it’s not acceptable to impose myself upon others. However, I’ve found out that people want to help and that they are pleased that I have let them in. I have a lot to learn about human relationships.
The right hand side of my body was so tender following surgery. In order to open my chest the surgeon had to cut through skin and muscle. Although it hasn’t hurt it has felt very uncomfortable. The only relief from the discomfort has been cuddling a pillow. It’s bliss when the discomfort goes away.
The team at the Heart hospital wanted me to have plastic surgery to debrided the dead skin, and then a skin graft to replace it. I felt so traumatised that I decided that I couldn’t go through with it. The trauma which I experienced was related to having surgery and then cardiac arrest. I’ve felt terrified of having another procedure.
The same has been true about this ulcer on my heel. I couldn’t allow them to cut the skin away. The thought of it has brought me to tears. However, this week has been a turning point. I agreed that plastics could debrided the skin by using tweezers to turn the edges back, and then a scalpel to remove the dead skin. I’ve also had the dead skin removed from my arm this week in the same way. The healing process will last for many months, but it will be quicker now that the dead skin has been removed.
I am grateful to be alive, but at the same time I’m frustrated at the amount of medical appointments I have. To assess and dress my injuries I see plastics at the Royal Free, podiatry at St Pancras, and three visits per week to my doctors surgery to have the dressings changed by a nurse.
Recovery also means getting back into normal living. I have been able to finish the third embroidered photo for my final Foundations in Photography assignment. This is the start of the fourth photo. I use a black and white photo, taped onto a self portrait, in order to prick the holes into the self portrait. It’s a slow process, but it’s mindfulness and rest. I look forward to the embroidery. It’s such a rewarding process.
I haven’t felt able to get out with my camera, I’ve been exhausted. But while I’ve been out I have been making potography with my Huawei Mate 20 Pro. I love how this guy is so loving towards the pigeons.
I had no intention of documenting my time in hospital, nor my recovery. However, a friend suggested that I document the progress of the wound on my arm, and I then figured I could piece together a photo documentary of my experiences.
Attempting to end my life was as an experience of intense suicidal thoughts. I didn’t want to die on this occasion, and I’m very grateful to be alive. Many people attempt suicide and sadly, a lot of people succeed and die. Help is available and we do not need to be alone with our thoughts or experiences.
If you are feeling suicidal then know that it is OK to ask for help. You can speak with one of your trusted friends or your Gp, or call a suicide helpline.
Grassroots is a charity in the UK that has a focus on preventing suicide. They have a Men’s Suicide Prevention Campaign which encourages men to talk with their mates about mental health and suicide, “This campaign focuses on encouraging male friends to look out for each other. The aim is to foster open and direct conversations about any concerns, including thoughts of suicide and mental health issues.”
Suicide Charities and Telephone Lines.
The Samaritans Call 116123
CALM 0800 58 58 58
The Listening Space (London) 020 3906 7676
Papyrus (young people) 0800 068 4141
AASRA 91 22 2754 6669
Lifeline Australia 13 11 14
Richard and Action Man would like to wish you a happy and creative new year, and year ahead.