My job as Cabinet Support for Economy & Regeneration means that I have a specific task to look after the County Council’s ‘Climate Emergency’ Plan, so on Tuesday evening I went through to Durham to attend the monthly meeting of Extinction Rebellion Durham.
I don’t know how you imagine an XR activist to be, but what struck me most about the 50-or-so people who had gathered for the meeting was how gentle and polite they were. They followed autism rules for debate (jazz hands to show approval and, instead of shouting to bring the meeting to order, the meeting leader just raised her arm above her head – those who noticed did likewise, and the meeting immediately fell silent silently).
The majority were young – sixth-formers and students – or old. There were few ‘in between’ and some time was spent talking about how XR might extend its appeal.
One well-received suggestion was that the XR logo needed to be as familiar to people as the ban-the-bomb sign, and time was spent considering how and where to ‘protest’. Suggestions, however, revolved around how to get noticed positively – for example by rejuvenating gardens, or picking up litter after public events. After the main meeting I listened in at the ‘Lobbying’ workshop, which discussed how members might politely approach councils, MPs, supermarkets, businesses, landlords, bus companies etc.
Other workshops looked at wider issues – for example: media, education, community resilience and regenerative culture … there is a realisation that saving the planet will require societal as well as technological change.
Some of the suggestions were brilliant. One was that we take off from our shopping all the unnecessary/unrecyclable packaging and give it back to the supermarket. The idea is that the supermarkets get fed up and demand reduced and recyclable/biodegradable packaging from their suppliers. I dare not, as some, make everyone wait whilst I take off the packaging at the checkout, but I *can* collect it up at home and take it back in to customer service! Other suggestions worth a second thought included car pools for places without a good public transport service, community composting, and ways to stop taxis waiting with their engines idling.
There are some disruptive XR strategies which I would find hard to defend, and some targets with which I cannot agree. But the people at Tuesday’s meeting were earnest and caring, and we need to help them as they seek to protect the planet.
Cllr John D Clare