Ecological collapse is threatening the extinction of our species and our elected politicians have failed us completely.
One November Monday, I was listlessly scrolling through Twitter on my lunch break when a photo caught my eye. It showed a group of activists blocking a bridge in central London.
They carried a banner reading "Tell the Truth. We’re F*****d.” and placards with more slogans: “climate breakdown kills” and “rebel for life”. A line of cars was waiting impatiently to pass and some police were visible, but the activists looked cheerful and determined.
I stopped eating my disappointing sandwich and looked closer at the picture. This was a very different group of environmental activists than those clichés I was used to seeing on the news.
For a start, there were children on the street too, and having fun by the look of it. And the adults themselves were such a mixed group – as well as some who looked every inch the activist, there were others who looked just like my mum and dad.
After some digging, I discovered who this group were. These 'Extinction Rebellion' people were responsible for a wave of peaceful civil disobedience across the country.
This had culminated, a few days previously, with 6,000 people blocking major bridges in the centre of London and dozens willingly putting themselves forward to be arrested for their peaceful resistance.
They were demanding that the government and media tell the truth about the climate emergency and ecological collapse.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been deeply concerned about climate change, climate crisis, climate catastrophe - every year a new and more horrifying noun is attached to the phrase!
As a teenager, I’d read obsessively about the looming threats of biodiversity loss and mass extinction, keeping myself up at night worrying. As an ostensibly “wiser” adult, I’d learnt to push these things to the back of my mind and get on with my life.
Now it all came rushing back. That one picture – the devastating truthfulness of the messages, the willingness of these people to go to such lengths to get those messages across – brought it home to me once again: climate breakdown is not something for future generations to worry about. This is an emergency right now.
In recent years, there has been a significant shift in the tone and content of scientific reports on these issues.
When I was at school we were told that it was important to move towards green energy, that people had to drive less, take fewer flights, have their homes insulated properly – but what would happen if we failed to make these adjustments was always a little vague.
Sure, you had some scientists making end-of-the-world predictions, and yes, some polar bears might lose their habitats, but overall we were given the impression that the truly dire consequences were due “by the end of the century” and that we still had time to avert them.
But following my chance encounter with that powerful photograph, I browsed through newspaper pieces and the odd accessible journal article with increasing horror.
Clearly, the situation – or our understanding of it – had changed quite a lot since I’d last properly looked into the science. This isn’t a distant threat – we are already in the first stages of total ecological collapse. It’s not only the polar bears we should be concerned about, but a global mass extinction event that could spell the end of our civilisation.
For a few weeks, I was overcome by depression and, if I’m honest, a healthy dose of apathy. All the most powerful companies and governments in the world are invested in the status quo, so what can possibly be done to change our path?
But slowly this apathy evolved into a feeling of injustice, and then rage. Ecological collapse is threatening the extinction of our species and our elected politicians have failed us completely.
They have broken the democratic contract to protect us and fight for our interests, instead looking after themselves and the interests of a tiny, wealthy fraction of our species. Now I truly understood what motivated those protesters on the bridge.
My first Extinction Rebellion meeting was held in a room packed with new members like me. It was comforting and exciting just to be with so many other people who felt the same as I did and who were willing to do something to fight back.
As I looked around the faces gathered there, I was struck by the same thing I had noticed in the photo: these were people of all ages, from all walks of life, all cultures. Now, we were all activists.
Each of us found a role that suited. I mainly help with the XR podcast and talking to journalists about what we are doing; others have launched themselves into planning nonviolent direct actions, or helping with fundraising, or making Extinction Rebellion artworks – all sorts.
But the big thing we are building up to at the moment is an event called the Spring Uprising: a two-day festival with music industry supporters like Boomtown and Ninja Tune records.
It will be happening on the weekend of March 15-16 in Bristol in a huge space called Motion. Lots of top artists who support what we do will be playing, alongside a programme of talks and mass training in civil disobedience.
This is the first time Extinction Rebellion has organised a major event that doesn’t involve any civil disobedience – it’s all totally legal.
But with further investigation, I found that the Spring Uprising is part of our Regenerative Culture, which aims to build a progressive and sustainable movement involving training, community building, idea-sharing and celebration.
There’s only so far you can go through the continuous push for action. You burn out. This Spring Uprising festival is about embodying the future we all need to adapt to.
It’s a post-capitalist, co-creative gathering that prepares us to engage with the crisis, as well as discover all the things we gain when we look to the world we know is possible… oh, and have a damn good time doing it.
This is all in preparation for the International Rebellion beginning April 15, when we will directly challenge the government's criminal inaction on the swiftly changing climate, ecological breakdown and species extinction by taking to the streets, and staying there.
David Anderson works in the media industry and works with the press team of Extinction Rebellion. Image: Ruth Davey.