The Time Is Now

The time is now:
we have extraordinary social power, if only we are willing to use it.

‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; the world, and those who live in it’.

(Psalm 24:1)

Business as Usual

As I’m writing this blog, many thousands of protesters from Extinction Rebellion are peacefully and non-violently blocking major roads in London and other capital cities around the world. Christian Climate Action have locked themselves onto a lorry across Marble Arch, London, risking arrest.

Our home is on fire, and we are in the midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction in our planet’s history. Globally, species are going extinct at a rate of up to 1,000 times the background rates of our Earth’s past. 76% of our flying insect biomass has disappeared within the past 30 years which threatens our food sources, and so-called ‘natural disasters’ caused by humanity are accelerating across continents, killing and displacing the poorest and most disadvantaged on this planet. World Bank Group, in 2018, predicted that 128 million climate refugees will be created by 2050 if we do not act. Business as usual is killing us.

In 1992, the majority of living science Nobel Laureates warned humanity about the threat of ecological collapse if humanity did not act. And, in 2018, the IPCC warned that we have just 12 years to limit this ecological collapse. In the last 25 years alone, over 50% of human addition of carbon emissions to our atmosphere has occurred.

The Powers That Be

Yesterday Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and part of Extinction Rebellion, led a vigil outside St Paul’s Cathedral, praying for the world’s leaders to take drastic action on climate change: “Christians are called by God to show to the world what the divine image looks like – the image of a divine creator who brought the world to birth, called it good, and summoned human beings to reflect this divine care”.

Our governments are not only failing us, but are actively making this crisis worse. Our carbon emissions are rising, and the UK Government has failed to meet its climate targets (which, even in themselves, are still not ambitious enough to keep us within 1.5°C of warming) And, if our governments are wilfully ignoring the world’s leading scientists – who are telling us that this is the biggest emergency that humanity has ever faced – then they are complicit in the famine, the drought, our choking on filthy air, and the eventual collapse of our civilisation. The Western world’s consumerism is largely responsible. After 1.5°C warming, our planet reaches feedback loops that lock us onto another 8°C of warming that will completely rid ice caps and make our home uninhabitable.

The Choice is Ours

So, what choice do we have?

In Jesus I am called to care for the weak, the poor, the disadvantaged and the marginalised. Corporate greed should never, ever prevail over the lives of others.

From church the other week, a few lines of Sister Helena’s sermon stuck with me:

‘If not me, who? And if not now, when?’

Creation on this planet exists in an interdependency of life. We have lost sight of this, and our current system is one that denies life and leaves destruction in its wake.

I don’t rejoice in the thought of rebelling against the government. I don’t rejoice in the thought that if I decide I am willing to be arrested, there might be consequences for my future. But the reality is, any slim chance that I may have of any kind of ‘stable’ future after ecological collapse would certainly be at the cost of others which is contrary to the values that I strive to live by. I refuse to be defeatist, despite my grief, because I see people rising up everywhere, even from the least likely of places and backgrounds. Lawyers, shop assistants, priests, gardeners, students. Pensioners, teenagers, children.

I will never be able to look into the eyes of children without guilt if, right now, I don’t use my voice, and I don’t act.

Rise Up

As a people our power is extraordinary, and we have lost sight of just how great we are when we unite and protest. Being a part of Extinction Rebellion has given me hope, and I see the message of Jesus working through this movement in acts of self-sacrifice. Climate scientists are endorsing this movement as our only hope. When looking at historical civil disobedience movements that have achieved drastic change (see the civil rights movement!), we can see that it takes only 3.5% of the population to move and use their voices. Ours is the moment, and ours is the voice.

We CAN halt this, and our scientists tell us so. But it takes you and me to stand up, otherwise we are complicit.

Civil disobedience has been at the heart of all great struggles for justice. The solutions come from you. And now is the time.

Written by Heather O'Connor, a member of Extinction Rebellion and climate activist.