Blog | This is the moment for all of us to rebel for the planet

Rosemary Collins, Journalist & XR Bristol Social Media Coordinator, writes about her desire to address the climate crisis from a young age, her experience of the power of Extinction Rebellion and why we need to rebel in September to force the government to listen.

Photo credit: Gareth Morris

I learned about the climate crisis at school in 2004, when I was eleven. The facts in the textbook were terrifying – by driving our cars, lighting and heating our homes, buying our food, we were pumping greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, creating a global temperature rise that would have catastrophic consequences within our lifetimes.

I couldn’t understand why we were just going to school and pretending everything was normal, preparing for futures we wouldn’t have. I even wondered if we should go on strike from school until the grownups agreed to take action, but I decided it was pointless.

I’m autistic, although I wasn’t diagnosed with the condition until I was an adult, so I often see things in a clearer and more logical way than other people. However, because of my autism I also struggle with social skills and I had no friends at school, so there was no one I could talk to about my fears.

In the years since, the scientific consensus about the climate crisis has become even clearer. Global temperatures are already 1 degree above pre-industrial levels and we’re rapidly running out of time to avoid irreparable climate breakdown. Yet despite every schoolchild knowing about the threat, no one in power has done anything.

Political leaders in Britain and around the world have prioritised profits for big businesses over protecting the planet, and the far-right leaders who have won power in recent years have failed to show any fair leadership on the crises we face, particularly imminent ecological collapse.

When I heard about the school strike movement led by Greta Thunberg, I was amazed. Here was another autistic teenage girl like I was, with the courage to do what I’d wanted to do but hadn’t gone through with. I began to think I wasn’t alone.

But it wasn’t until Extinction Rebellion brought central London to a standstill in April 2019 that I began to feel hopeful. For the first time, I saw that there were thousands of people like me, who shared my dread and anger about the climate crisis. Alone, I could do nothing; together, we could force the government and media to take notice.

Rebels block road outside Goldman Sacks in London rebellion April 2019 for the planet.
London, UK. 25th Apr, 2019. Extinction Rebellion demonstrators block road outside Goldman Sachs, London UK. Credit: Vladimir Morozov/akxmedia

The next week, I joined an Extinction Rebellion Bristol meeting. There were over a hundred new members there and the energy in the crowded hall was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever experienced. Since then, I’ve been part of XR’s mass actions in Bristol and London. Because I’m a journalist, I’ve also been able to put my professional skills to use by volunteering with XR’s media team.

A movement of people who share the same fears about the climate is an incredibly powerful thing – which is why we need to continue working to be a movement that welcomes and supports everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, class, disability and other factors.

2020, surely, is our last chance to act on climate change. This year’s extreme weather, from the fires in Australia, to flooding in South Asia, to a record-breaking heatwave in the UK, will only get worse in future years unless those in power act now.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything with devastating consequences, killing 774,000 people worldwide and triggering a severe recession. But it also provides a chance to rethink everything and implement a green recovery, building a fairer society that’s better for the environment and human health.

The power to save ourselves and other living species from extinction is in our hands, but only if we use every means necessary – including non-violent direct action – to force the government to listen to us.

If you’re like me – worried about the crisis but not sure what to do or how to act – I urge you to join Extinction Rebellion in our upcoming protests in Bristol, Cardiff and London.

This is the most important crisis in human history, and you’re needed to help stop it.