I’ve recently written a Will, it’s not my first, but it might be my last. In it, I lay out who in my community gets how much of my assets and what they are to do with it. The central theme here is that my assets be reinvested in these key things: restoration of self, restoration of communities and restoration of our planet. I’m under no illusions that in the next 20 years or so, our global civilization will have to face its reckoning. And I’m not ready, we’re not ready, but we’ll have to be.
I could write about who Extinction Rebellion (XR) are, what they want and my journey with this movement — but I don’t think that’s the most important thing right now. Right now, I want to acknowledge how XR simultaneously gave me purpose and destroyed the story frame my life was built on. There appears to be nothing more important now or more noble a cause to throw one’s life work into than to either avert the trajectory we are currently on (we anticipate 4C of warming) or find ways of deeply adapting and helping pockets of humanity survive.
Joining XR meant that my network expanded overnight from a small group of well-educated ‘middle class’ friends who identified as ‘young professionals’ in corporate jobs to an array of people: working-class, multicultural, LGBTQ+, spiritual, religious, anarchist, socialists, communists and privileged young white people who were (are) ‘throwing away’ (subjective opinion here) their futures (and inheritance) to fight for a cause or pursue various avenues to save the world. Most of all, I was thrown into a crowd of radical, hardcore environmental activists. People who celebrated their arrests and paraded them like badges of honour (as seen by the various Facebook profile photos). I’ve leant far left, more than what was comfortable for me (as a historically centre-left-leaning voter) and educated myself on intersectionality, systemic racism, heterosexism, to name a few. I’ve challenged and been challenged on ‘acceptable’ behaviour, use of language and lifestyle choices.
This whole experience has been jarring, disturbing, confusing, exhilarating, liberating, frightening, joyful, anxiety-driven and eye-opening. I don’t mean for these statements to be judgemental; these are merely the facts I am trying to present of my experience. Overall, it was humbling as I stripped away my ignorance and tried to take in as much complexity of the world as my brain could handle.
The scariest part is that once I started to read the science, it became clear that all these ‘extreme’ or ‘radical’ actions XR Rebels took seemed justified. Necessary. Imperative. The idea that our societal values, foundations, structures — especially our food sovereignty — could topple under the fragility of unpredictable weather patterns and global trade made me wobble at the knees. It made me start to seek solutions in other ways of living. It made me start to fall into a “dark night of the soul” (a woo-woo description of this is so fucked I can’t get myself out of bed). And ultimately liberated me to experiment and take more risks with my life choices (and I’m not alone in saying this either).
It was the worst thing to happen to me. I am still recovering, and I’ll probably spend the rest of my life trying to hold this awful truth, nay, trying to live this awful truth — that our reality will change and those who are most disadvantaged will bear the grunt of it the most. I can no longer enjoy a flight, cheese or air conditioning without knowing that I am contributing to the burden of the climate crisis.
Underneath all the guilt and shame, there is constantly a new me emerging. One that has found a community of like-minded friends. One that is timidly exploring the new frontier of life if I had less stuff and more connection and love. The new me is stripping away the old me one day at a time, unlearning and relearning all the time. It was the best thing to happen to me.
In looking for meaning and joy outside of the materialistic world, I found spirituality; I found internal traumas that needed to be healed; I found the awe, grace, and beauty of the world I live in. The world we live in. I discovered the sacred in the seemingly mundane things in life — a leaf, a bee, the seasons' changing, the sky. I rediscovered my creativity and yours and honoured our gifts.
I found people who love me. I found that I love myself. Because facing the climate crisis is also about facing many other crises: the crisis of separation, the crisis of meaning, the existential crisis (we’re all going to die!).
In forcing myself to find myself on the now shakey foundations of my old life, I’ve built tolerance and resilience. I’ve learnt the humility of being a human on this planet.
Do I wish I had never found XR? Never witnessed the immense courage of people fighting with everything they have to stop mass death and suffering in the world? Some days yes, but on most days, no. I’d rather live seeing the shadows of our collective psyche clearly than turning away from the reality that our inherent greed, denial and fears are driving us to extinction. Even if that means I have to face my own greed, denial and fear with as much love and courage as I can muster.
On most days, I suffer. I wish there were more that I could do. I’m held back by said fears, truth be told, but in my small way, I contribute — and hold onto a simple hope: ‘Trust The People’ they say, and so trust them I must. That we will somehow find our way through all of this and that love will ultimately prevail for all beings.
Extinction Rebellion will be back on the streets for two weeks from 23rd August 2021 in the City of London, creating non-violent disruption to bring attention to the climate and ecological crisis. Are you ready to stand up and fight for another future? An impossible future?