As the International Extinction Rebellion comes to it’s climatic end in London we would like to take this opportunity to look back from the point of view of local people in Wimborne. Some of whom attended the capital from day-one, others who travelled-up for just a day or two. For those that could not travel to London XR Wimborne held their own well attended community & outreach events. Public readings from Greta Thunberg’s book ‘No One is Too Small to Make a Difference’ plus the collection and reciting of ‘Messages to the Earth’ followed by a vigil, with spoken word, music and poetry. Culminating in a donation to the local food-bank and a display with other like minded green-groups at the Wimborne Minster Green Fair.
By the end of the two week rebellion over thirty locals had gone to London to show their support. Some travelled with a specific purpose whereas others found impromptu roles on the edge of actions and marches handing-out leaflets and engaging with the public. Contrary to reports in the news media which mainly focussed on the disruption and not the demands. Public support for XR on-the-ground has been overwhelmingly supportive. In Wimborne people listened attentively and stopped to to join-in with the book readings. Dozens of Messages to the Earth from children and adults, including representatives from the town council, will be collated and delivered to our local MP.
“In the roads leading to Trafalgar Square and on the pavements along the way of marches and processions. The response I received was astonishing. The public were overwhelmingly in support of what we were doing” says rebellious resident and solicitor Joanna Bury.
For those not familiar with XR each day of the rebellion had different themes with specific actions designed to highlight them. In order to facilitate peaceful protest these are made public well in advance and the activists adhere to a non-violent code of conduct e.g. drug and alcohol free. An action may involve blocking a road by holding-up a banner or sitting down. Therefore creating a safe-space for performance-art, discussion & debate. XR volunteers work with the Police and emergency services through the deployment of skilled liaison officers and legal observers. This strategy not only ensures the safety and legality for participants and public but it also ensures blue-light emergency vehicles are granted safe passage.
“I’m a family psychiatrist and I volunteered to be involved in Police Liaison” says Angie Nicholas of XRW. “I was concerned about the possibility of agent provocateurs in the crowd and activists or police getting heated. I am trained in systemic practice which includes the ability to hold a neutral stance and to focus on common goals. In the case of XR and the Police, these include ensuring protestors are able to exercise their rights to peaceful protest, and to ensure that public, protestors and police are kept safe from physical or psychological harm.
In practice I spent much of my time chatting with the sergeants and constables and building relationships. Most of the sergeants mentioned they found it difficult to police as we were all so nice and they sympathised with our concerns. After the closing ceremony on Friday (Oct 18th) two of the Met Police sergeants asked me if I could get them some XR flags for their unit’s tea rooms, as a souvenir of their time at the rebellion as they had all decided they were pro-XR. They were grateful that we were acting on behalf of them and their kids.”
Day One (Oct 7th) up to 4000 activists from the South West, including Wimborne, head towards Lambeth Bridge to target the Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The theme for the South West was Global Food Justice, promoting food systems that work with nature not against it. The rebels are campaigning for healthy nutritious food that doesn’t harm the planet. Instead of highly intensive, chemical laden, soil-eroding practices that provide fewer nutrients for the consumer BUT mega profits for the agro-industries.
Local organic farmer Cath Mason says “We are interested here in regenerative agriculture and agroecology; how farming can work alongside nature and embrace natural processes for producing food. There are so many farmers in my area alone doing so much to build organic matter in their soils, protect and enhance biodiversity, improve water quality etc. and they aren’t necessarily certified organic.
… consumers need to know exactly where food comes from and how it is produced. We can make a huge dent in our carbon emissions globally by very simply changing the way we eat; even simply adopting the “Healthy Plate” would reduce carbon from food and agriculture by one third! And that’s just changing the way we eat, not even starting on the way we farm.
That’s why we have started doing farm visits, partnering with schools around Dorset to build connections between our local communities and the farm to try promote local, healthy, sustainably produced food.”
Those that couldn’t travel to London were either at work or home glued to their TV, Radios and Social Media as reports of the police being ‘overwhelmed’ came-in ‘the bridge is taken!’, ‘the Mall is ours, Trafalgar too!’. Lest we forget this was not a rolling street battle by any means. Rebels are law-biding peaceful citizens who feel it is their duty to respond to the Climate and Ecological Emergency by demanding the UK government take action now NOT later!
Chris Monks of XRW sent us his thoughts at the time “I’m just taking a breather for a coffee away from the front line of the XR protest in London. Around me are people busy with their lives. Businesses needing run. Relationships needing nurturing. It strikes me as clear that the act of surviving and pursuing one’s dreams in this world, of nurturing a family and ensuring they’re all well, is a full time job that absorbs the vast majority of people. These people mean no ill. But they’re highly preoccupied with their stuff. And in so doing are inadvertently contributing to a massive problem.”
People who criticise Extinction Rebellion activists for being hypocrites are missing the point. XRW accept that we all are part of the problem but that also makes us a huge part of the solution. We are not interested in blaming or pointing the finger at anyone other than ourselves. It’s early-days and XRW admit there is lots to be learned and improved upon. As the movement grows to encompass even more points of view Extinction Rebellion is joining-up-the-dots of previously disparate or exhausted environmental campaigns. Extinction Rebellion Wimborne are now a part of a growing global phenomenon with hundreds of like-minded groups in the UK and hundreds more across the world.
“At the community and outreach event I met a retired school teacher” says Lee Hadaway from Colehill. “She tells me that in the 1970’s there was a text-book with an entire chapter dedicated to global-warming. And that 1000’s of children would’ve drawn a picture of the earth with a greenhouse around it. You can only ask yourself – if that was 40 years ago, why on earth are we in this situation now?”. As the truth emerges about the Climate and Ecological Emergency people are starting to rise to the challenges ahead. Instead of channeling their energies into negative thoughts and protests Extinction Rebellion Wimborne are being inspired to take more affirmative actions like these.
Paula from Corfe Mullen took part in the Grief March on Saturday 11th October “..marching down Oxford Street with 20,000 fellow Rebels. The thing that I will take away from this is that despite its name, the march was a completely joyous occasion. There was chanting, choirs, drama and a profusion of colour everywhere. The surreal thing was though that as we snaked down the High Street, either side of us on the pavement were people carrying their shopping bags going about their everyday lives, seemingly disconnected from everything that we were trying to achieve. What a contrast! Whilst feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the cultural shift that needs to take place, this in turn also made me more determined to do something about it and never give up the fight for Climate justice!”
The International Extinction Rebellion took place in London (and Wimborne) all around the world from October 7-19th 2019