Firstly lets deal with immediate matters and then maybe fall back to previous ones.
Rupert Read has recently published a couple of things (one of which is partly about a new book he has coming out) which deserve a mention. Both are related to XR doings, and both I am in nearly complete agreement with. It is worth stressing that up front lest you get the impression that because I have a couple of minor comments or queries or even differences of emphasis you get the false impression that I somehow disagree with Rupert - I do not.
One of the pieces, titled "Truth and its consequences" was targeted at XR activists and discussed and promoted a particular view of the potential actions being planned for October.
The other was a blog post "Why I say that this civilisation is finished" on the XR blog for more general consumption. Essentially this covered similar territory to his June 2017 post "This Civilisation is Finished"
Together they tell a good story.
In the paper on "Truth", Rupert quite rightly makes the point that the first XR 'Demand' - that the Government start to tell the truth about the emergency - actually needs to go a lot deeper and closer to home. Essentially he is arguing both here and in the "Why" post, that we need to stop being distracted by potential prevention or mitigation strategies and start putting significant effort into adaptation. Prevention of climate change and trophic cascades in ecosystems now looks rather like the mythical King Canute ordering the tide to retreat
(I hope you know that the real Cnut the Great had no such ambition - he was actually making a point to his courtiers that there are greater powers than kings; something it would behove us well to remember).
Even mitigation (which would include many geo-engineering suggestions) now looks like putting a sticking plaster on a headache.
The truth that needs to be told is that only by adapting to change do we stand a chance of getting back into harmony with the web of life that supports us. And adaptation means relinquishing a lot of cherished 'goods' which are turning out to be 'bads'.
Rupert suggests that in order to carry a significant proportion of the human population with us we need, in our actions, and particularly in the October actions, to be targeting the "elite 1%"
(incidentally "elite" is a word that carries a lot of positive connotations and thus is probably not the best word to characterise those who are most responsible for driving inequality and ecological destruction; how about calling them the "hyper-selfish 1%", or the "fat controllers" or something that is clearly not an aspirational title).
Others have stressed that we need to make it clear that our demands and actions are targeted at the Government and not people in general. Essentially much the same point, but different in emphasis and outcome. Whilst initially I agreed with both - the key thing for October is not to exclude or drive away the man on the Clapham omnibus, I feel that targeting the machinery of Government specifically is more focused and stands a better chance of success than targeting something amorphous like "inequality" or "the elite". What would success look like in that case?
Another truth that we need to be telling each other is that the more directly we target the fat controllers, the greater the reaction, and potentially repression, will be. We need to be prepared for that. We need to be honest with ourselves that our actions will have consequences.
I find it slightly disturbing the extent to which many in the movement, including Rupert himself to some extent, seem to think that the mainstream media can continue to be used as a partially effective channel for our message. I believe this is totally deluded. Rupert did very well in handling Humphries of Radio 4 recently in response to some nutter they had put up as an authoritative voice denouncing XR as a bunch of anarchists bent on destruction. But was is only the start of the reaction - the mass media will turn increasingly against us and attempting to confront that head on will drain exponentially increasing amounts of energy from the main objective - getting the Government to tell the truth. It is worth writing more on this anon...
I like Rupert's vision of what success on this front (getting the government to tell the truth) would look like - a British Prime Minister addressing the nation on all media channels simultaneously (and repeated daily until the entire population had seen it) telling this truth:
"that the truth is that things will still carry on getting worse for a long time to come; that a long Blitz spirit and ‘wartime mobilisation’ will be needed to cope with this; and that massive resources need to be devoted to adaptation, as insurance in case of failure. Specifically: it would mean fessing up longingly and in increasing detail to the likelihood of food shortages in years to come (partly as a result of the likelihood of dire water shortages and dire weather disasters of all kinds - not to mention the possibility of other kinds of unprecedented dire epidemics etc.)." [Rupert Read, July 2019]
From there it is an easier step to XR demands 2 (zero carbon UK by 2025) and 3 (citizen's assemblies) being met. Targeting the playthings of the rich (eg London City Airport) is a distraction from these objectives.
In both the "Truth" paper and the "Why" post Rupert mentions the need for deep adaptation and the desire to "seed" a future civilisation in order to minimise the period of darkness.
As I said in my comment on Rupert's original June 2017 "This Civilisation is Finished" post, I have have some problems with this notion of "seeding" a successor civilisation.
It smacks of tremendous hubris, we have frankly made a right hash of creating a global civilisation capable of existing within its ecological niche.
Any future human civilisation will almost certainly be very very different to our own. Jeremy Lent made some very good suggestions about the way forward, and Orlov and Greer have both commented extensively on the nature of civilisational collapse.
It seems to me that a more useful way of putting it is that we need two things.
- Firstly preserve in the short (up to 20 human generation) time horizon the skills and knowledge that may make the decline and immediate aftermath more congenial for our descendants here living through it. Much of this will be irrelevant to a new civilisation arising in the newly fertile Siberian tundra or wherever. They will have a very different practical model of the relationship between humans and the web of life, and when they finally expand into our old territory where we used to live it will become a distant minor outpost of their new empire.
- Secondly to find a way of encoding and making available to future inhabitants of this planet some information that we think they may find useful. An example might be the location on contents of some of our detritus like old nuclear power plants and rubbish dumps.
This requires some deep thought about the nature of information, knowledge and culture and the ways in which it is passed on around time. Thinking about the various radioactive hotspots we will be bequeathing to the future, we clearly need to consider how to pass this information on even to our non-human successors should they arise.