Climate Change & Inequality - there is no planet B
Berwick upon Tweed & District Trades Union Council
Day School, 26 October 2019
Horncliffe Village Hall
Rachel Featherstone was the lead candidate for the North East Green Party in the EU Elections 2019. She is a lecturer in research methods at Teesside University, a member of UCU and a supporter of Extinction Rebellion. She currently lives in Sunderland and has been selected as the Green Party's general election candidate for Sunderland Central.
What is to be done? This session will explore our available responses to the climate crisis. The focus will be on changes required at the macro-level including our attitudes to economic growth, industry, employment and governance.
'The causes of global climate change in deep time: what is the geological evidence?'
My biography? I have had an interest in the state of the global environment for many years, having taught geology and geography to college A-level students and adult groups, which led to taking many groups of students to Iceland to observe the evidence of recent climate change.
Chair: Jim Herbert
Kate Duncan: Extinction Rebellion.
Thanks to Kate for standing in at short notice as our advertised speaker was unable to attend.
“From this moment despair ends and tactics begin” A photo of a Banksie graffiti
- What we need to do and have a moral obligation to do.
- This includes to other humans, future humans, ourselves and the natural world.
- Our predicament has been inflicted by the wealthy upon the less wealthy.
- The Government is not acting so we have a right and obligation to rebel.
So far we have had already had several Global Climate summit meetings since the problems were raised in 1988.Scientists were given a chance to look at evidence.
Venues were Rio, Kyoto and Paris.
Other concerned groups include Greenpeace, WWF and Wildlife Trusts. There have been attempts to clean up the use of pesticides and some progress on re-cycling but none of these efforts have succeeded in reducing the CO2 emissions. These have increased only since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800’s. Since 1990 there has been an alarming increase.
Why hasn’t this Carbon crisis happened?
- Short –term lengths of democracy. With frequent elections the authorities don’t like to make long term decisions.
- Capitalism has failed to cost Climate Change into its budget. Instead it creates an endless hunger for more consumerism.
- We need to act globally. Trump’s recent decision to pull out of the Paris agreement is especially depressing.
Only legislation will make a difference. Greta Thunberg made the point that if we cannot win then the rules need to be changed.
- NVDA is essential i.e. Non-violent direct action. Role models include Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King.
- Thousands of people need to be involved in civil resistance.
- This should be focused on a capital city
- It needs to be disruptive to get attention.
- It may need to be prolonged to inflict economic damage
- It must be creative and fun.
What is Extinction Rebellion?
- It was formed in October 2018 when the London Bridges Blockade.
- Now it is global with 60 countries involved.
- This includes places which are under threat of climate change affecting sea levels or droughts or hurricanes or fires.
- Scotland has now more than 100 members.
- This April the London Rebellion was effective with some people still going through the courts.
- Ambivalent success with the Jubilee Line and Underground protests.
- Tell the truth about the ecological crisis and declare an emergency.
- Halt diversity loss by 2025
- Create a Citizens Assembly on Climate and Ecological Justice.
The present target by government of 2045 leaves it too late.
What would a Citizens’ Assembly be?
- It would comprise a random mix of people of all ages, gender, locality, education and ethnicity.
- The Assembly would discuss issues with experts
- The Assembly would draft recommendations after group discussions
- The Government should deliberate on the recommendations and act accordingly.
Such Assemblies have worked in Ireland and Poland. E.g. on abortion and same sex marriage.
A quote from John Lennon “ If violent THEY (i.e. the authorities) know how to handle you but THEY can’t deal with non-violence and humour.
Kate stresses that differences should not be top down but through working groups. The core activity is ACTION. Photos are shown of people lying down at Holyrood. 2019 led to Summer Uprisings in Glasgow, Bristol, Leeds, Cardiff and London. Extinction Rebellion Activists occupied Scottish Parliament.
Any “arrestables” are voluntary. Each one is pre-agreed with about 20 supportive people.
How can you contribute?Through Facebook, produce artwork and banners, attend actions, join a working group or present a talk.
Why join? It means being on the right side of history.
What about the Media?
BBC are biased and do not cover Extinction Rebellion events. These might be reported in the London based “Evening Standard”. Members responded by a ten hour blockade of the BBC.
- Recognised that the Schools Rebellion was more effective at being reported by the media. General agreement.
- The government needs to make Climate Change a priority but more effective to tackle the Banking system.
- Question of strike action and how effective is it without antagonizing the public.
Rachel Featherstone, Green Party Candidate for Sunderland.
What is to be done?
Even a 1 degree rise in temperature is affecting our climate. Few nations can reach their targets to decrease emissions. It is estimated that 140 million climate refugees will be made when the tipping point has passed. Famine and wildfires will endanger lives.It is shocking that we have known about the threat for 30 years and done very little. Imagine having to explain to a grandchild what a butterfly used to look like.
- Social Inequity.This can be within nations – between nations- and intergenerational.
- We consume at least 4 X as much as 3rd world countries.
- We need structural change. Adaptations to flooding, change our factory farming methods, reduce our meat consumption and
- EVERYBODY needs to use less energy.
- Metanoia is radical thinking at the heart of civil society.
- Change economic growth. Our current system has been dominant for more than 200 years.
- We have assumed that growth is good for all our society but it isn’t
- Instead it increases the gap between rich and poor.
- Life expectance is going backwards
- Correlation between GDP growth and destruction of natural environment.
We need more money spent on health and education. We need to decrease our consumption of earth’s resources which has a finite capacity.
There will be competition for fresh water soon which could even lead to wars. This could be a geopolitical form of domination.
Crucially we must decrease the correlation between consumption and happiness. There has been a rise in self-harm especially in children. Instant gratification is rife and economic growth is allegedly best but it must be sustainable. We are a throwaway society with thousands of tonnes of waste going to land-fill.
- Degrowth will have to come.
- Need a more just society.
- Decrease consumption in the global north in order to increase consumption in the global south.
- Need to consider the quality of life rather than amassing goods.
- Need to localize production and consumption.
- Government must tackle the Advertising industry to stop this insatiable desire for Things.
- National economics should be measured by Happiness not G.D.P.
- Adopt ecological economics. Avoid pollution and do more re-cycling.
- Need proportional representation
- Need to change NOW!
- Work is an essential factor in the quality of life.
- Need to reduce working week and share employment more fairly
- Need to widen its definition to include care work, voluntary work, domestic work and creative work
- Reduce automation and increase creativity.
- Introduce a Basic Income.
- This is the biggest source of Carbon emission
- Invest more in public transport
- Make the fares cheaper
- Localisation especially transport of goods and food.
- Allow more home working
- We are still using fossil fuels
- Peak of oil extraction has been reached and resources are declining twice as fast as predicted.
- Enormous cost of de-commissioning is daunting (power stations etc )
- Coal is one of the most polluting fuels . Drax is the 7th worst and Longannet in Scotland is the 11th worst colliery.
- Leave fossil fuel in the ground.
- Nuclear fuel has a waste storage problem.
- Solar panels need rare minerals to operate.
- Cement is a large producer of Carbon emissions.
- Better housing insulation is needed.
Our grain production per capita peaked in the mid-1980’s.
We are losing our top-soil to erosion. Staple crops e.g. potatoes, maize, soya all deplete soil.We need to support organic farming.The fish production is badly affected by global warming. We need to localize food production and abstain from air-freighted delicacies.
If meat is eaten there should be a reduction but also experiments to eat rabbit, pigeon, even protein rich insects.
The consequences of inaction are grim with the possibility of organized life collapsing or authoritarian/fascist “solutions” taking over.
Our final speaker was Alison Tymon, a geologist who has observed recent climate change in Iceland.
Alison put the context of recent climate change into a geological framework with the help of a multi meter long knitted scarf representing the age of the earth. Our human time being the final row of fluff at the end. Climate change events marked with different colours. Climate change has been a feature of the earth since its origins over 4 billion years ago. However, the last hundred years or so of climate change cannot be attributed to natural causes as some climate deniers claim. We should be headed for another ices age in several thousand years but anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere has caused a sudden jump in temperature.
The final session comprised a panel of Alison, Rachel and Edward of Berwick Young Greens.
(Kate had to go)
There followed a wide-ranging discussion; these are some of the topics touched on:
The dynamic between the actions of the individual and structural constraints.
The damage done by climate change deniers in confusing the arguments.
Can capitalism solve the problems or do we need alternative economic systems?
Fracking in the UK compared to USA.
Carbon capture and storage as well as mitigation of CO2 production.
Moving labour from oil production to renewables and the role of trade unions.
The highly controversial issue of viable population numbers.
Summary of the Day
Participants agreed this was a useful start for ongoing discussion and of course action in our community and beyond.
Some of us signed up to XR.
There are further events planned, including a Northern TUC day school and a Cross Border Climate Gathering organized by Berwick Young Greens.
Chair urged participants to follow Berwick Trades Union Council on Facebook, see Events page on our website and participate in the council’s activities and meetings.
Report compiled by Rose
With additions by Phil