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Message At Extinction Rebellion Gathering: Pandemic Is ‘Last Chance’ For Climate Action

Published on: 31 Aug, 2020
Updated on: 31 Aug, 2020

Professor Rupert Read said that this was the first face-to-face talk he had given since lockdown.

By Aidan Todd

There was a gathering in Guildford’s Stoke Park on Sunday (August 30) of around 50 people to listen to Professor Rupert Read, Green Party campaigner and one of the founding members of Extinction Rebellion (XR), saying the coronavirus pandemic was the “last chance” to act to limit global warming.

“These opportunities don’t come along very often,” he said.

He spoke about the near inevitability of there being further crises, like the current pandemic, and how people and communities could organise themselves to mitigate against the impacts of climate change.

Professor Rupert Read speaking at a socially distanced meeting in Stoke Park. He said that it would be foolish to think we would be all right in comparison to poorer countries. “We can’t feed ourselves and countries look after themselves first, including poor countries.”

The meeting was organised by Guildford Extinction Rebellion, part of an international organisation dedicated to addressing the urgency of the climate crisis and holding the government to account.

Professor Rupert Read being interviewed by Aidan Todd in Stoke Park.

Professor Read, author of the new book: Extinction Rebellion: Insights From the Inside, gave a passionate speech to the crowd on the urgency of climate change action and how the pandemic gives us a rare chance to address this very serious issue.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS interviewed Professor Read on why he is campaigning for climate action and how the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic are directly linked: 

“The corona crisis is a product of the ecological crisis,” he explained. “It wouldn’t have happened without the neglect of the natural environment, animal cruelty, and reckless industrialisation without concern for the planet.”

He said that the coronavirus crisis was similar to the environmental crisis but “massively sped up.”

Professor Read said: “The way we come out of the corona crisis is vital if we are to solve the ecological and climate crisis.

XR Rebel Riders arrive in Stoke Park from Brighton before cycling on to London to protest outside Parliament.

If we come out desperately trying to return to normal by bailing out the same old polluting and carbon intensive industries, we’d be jumping out of the frying pan of coronavirus into the fires of the climate crisis. If we use this as an opportunity to build back greener, then we might have a chance of addressing the climate crisis.”

The Dragon also interviewed Miranda, one of the XR ‘Rebel Riders’ cycling across the country to call for the government to support the proposed Climate and Ecological Bmergency Bill. “I’m here in support of XR and everything they do, and the need for governments to act on  the climate catastrophe.” she said.

About how it linked in with coronavirus, she added: “We can certainly see a comparison with government’s inability to lead, and it’s apparent that this government has no plan with either Covid or the climate.”

Professor Read said: “It will be a miracle if the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill was passed – like Trump converting to Buddhism,” but we have to “stand up and do the right thing.”

The event served as a regroup for the Guildford climate activists after lockdown, and a planning event on how they will continue to inform people and pressure the government and the councils to act on climate change.

Sue and Nigel Bond from Ashted said: “We are new to XR. We’re doing it for our grandchild. It’s so awful and that’s the reason why people don’t want to face it.”

XR has three key demands: for governments to tell the truth about the climate crisis, act now to reduce emissions to net zero by 2025, and call a binding citizens’ assembly to decide on the best course of action to minimise the impact of global warming on the planet.

A Climate Emergency banner being unfurled at dawn on the footbridge over the A3 by Wisley Lane by climate activists from Guildford on Friday (August 28). Banners were also fixed to the Ockham bridge over the M25.

Website: Extinction Rebellion Guildford

Facebook page: Extinction Rebellion Guildford

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Responses to Message At Extinction Rebellion Gathering: Pandemic Is ‘Last Chance’ For Climate Action

  1. Bill Smith Reply

    August 31, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    Whether or not you support the methods of Extinction Rebellion, there is no question that what they are calling for is essential given the overwhelming body of evidence that puts us a few years away from triggering the crucial tipping points that lead to rapid escalation of climate change, and the failure of all but a handful of governments currently meeting the obligations of the Paris Accord (actually there is evidence that terrifyingly we may have passed 9 crucial climate tipping points already).

    Climate breakdown is not a linear issue. It won’t just ‘get a bit warmer’. Passing these tipping points will lead to a cascading increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events.

    For us in Guildford, flooding is already a major issue. Last week we flooded again, and whilst not a major flood, it is still August!! A warmer atmosphere stores more moisture, the problem could leave the parts of Guildford prone to flooding uninhabitable and uninsurable.

    But the biggest worry for all of the UK is the fact we import 50% of our food. We cannot feed ourselves. That is the brutal reality. Increased global drought, floods, and messed up growing seasons like we’re seeing already in many countries are likely to lead to the places we import from keeping the supplies for their own populations. We are at real risk of food insecurity.

    Not everyone needs to back these peoples’ methods of disruption and getting arrested (and it seems, oddly, disco dancing on occasion?!). But every single one of us can get out onto the streets to protest against the inept governments that are failing us and send them a message…Stop putting the profits of companies and billionaires ahead of the future of the people you are charged to protect!

  2. Sean Jenkinson Reply

    September 1, 2020 at 8:53 am

    I agree we all need to do our part. Myself and my wife have not been on holiday outside the UK since 2005 because we don’t want to fly. We can’t afford an electric car so we brought the smallest low emissions car we could, not that we drive that much.

    We are the 17th largest polluting country in the world. Our population is growing and by 2043, the prediction is it will be 74 million, not good for such a small country.

    But unless countries like China, United States, India and Russia, just to name the top 4 most polluting countries, do something about their pollution, not much will change.

    You don’t see Extinction Rebellion protesting much in those countries, if at all.

    If the world does not come together to sort this problem out, it will make little difference what we do, unfortunately.

    • S Peters Reply

      September 1, 2020 at 12:59 pm

      Extinction Rebellion UK members don’t live in the US, China, India or Russia. They can only protest where their voice actually matters, and leave XR groups in other countries to protest as best they can in their countries.

      Either way, per capita, the UK is actually a far bigger emitter than China or India, which is the only fair way to consider this. After all, we wouldn’t give China’s billions the same emissions allowances as Luxembourg’s 600,000. This is in fact even more pronounced than it appears because the UK ignores aviation, shipping and embedded emissions (the CO2 created by the production and materials used in goods we import). Given that 1 in 12 flights are made through the UK, and we import vast amounts of products (including those from China), these emissions rightfully belong to us as the demand and consumer country, not the supply or producer country.

      When we look at just resource use, we see that for every person worldwide to live like a US citizen, we’d need nearly five planets to sustain them. Those figures for the UK, China and India are around 3.9, 1.3 and 0.8 respectively. We also tend to ignore the historical aspect of emissions, and just look at current emissions levels. When we adjust for historic emissions per capita, the UK is actually the world’s highest emitter.

      This isn’t to say that other countries should sit back and do nothing, or that the UK is doing nothing on the climate crisis (although we’re certainly currently doing very little, and what little progress there has been made has been largely driven by global economic factors, such as renewables being the cheapest form of new power generation since around 2015). But XR UK members only hope to affect can change in the UK, it’s also not true that the UK is performing particularly well on emissions, and certainly not when we use a fair comparison.

      All that said, it’s inspiring and heart-warming to hear that you and your wife have been taking individual action for so long. If everyone had the same mindset, we’d certainly be much closer to achieving the necessary emissions and resource use reductions needed to avert runaway climate change.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    September 1, 2020 at 10:11 am

    I think we have to be very careful about these tipping points.

    13 years ago some scientists claimed there were only 12 years of oil reserves left in the world…!

    When the Icelandic volcano ‘blew its top’ the air pollution increase was greater than that caused by air travel.

    Air pollution has dropped with the pandemic across the world and rubber particle pollution along with it.

    These are provable facts,

    Mother Nature has more to do with ‘climate control’ than mankind. Any who claim they can control the climate with their placard-carrying, plastic using, litter dropping, graffiti painting, road blocking, walks in the park are delusional; you have to “live climate change” not just shout about others doing something.

  4. John Perkins Reply

    September 2, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    If there were 50 people present then more than half of them must have been off-camera. Then again, who wants to listen to someone who claims a nasty and destructive virus supports his view of the world? I wonder if the professor has even considered the possibility that the virus was created (or at least studied) in a Chinese lab from which it escaped rather than regarding it as some sort of mother nature’s revenge.

    First it was 2050 then, after that was accepted, 2040, then after that was agreed, 2030 and now it’s 2025. Soon it’ll be 1820.

    If we can only support 50% of the population then the obvious answer is to reduce it by half. Some say that’s what certain billionaires want. Being 17th largest polluter seems pretty good for the 6th largest economy.

    XR supporters don’t live in China, India or Russia because they are not tolerated there.

    No statistic is ever “fair” and per capita is no better than per billionaire or per cubic metre of melted ice. Adding every flight that passes through and estimates of past emissions is guaranteed to increase the numbers, but, unless the same is done for every other country and port, is only ever going to a be misleading comparison. And the suggestion that UK consumers are solely responsible for emissions is bizarre given that China chooses to produce goods using coal.

    Jim Allen must be younger than I thought! 50 years ago some scientists were claiming that the oil would run out in 10 years (and a new ice age was imminent). People recognised they were only asking for more grants and largely ignored them, nowadays the population seems more willing to take them at their word.

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