Join the climate rebellion

An Extinction Rebellion WA protest in Perth's Murray Mall on June 22. Photo: Simon Stevens.

I first delved into climate change 12 years ago, when my boy was born and I had freak-out #1. What had I done bringing a child into the world only for him to inherit a dying planet? 

I got depressed and scared, but I managed to find hope. 

I learned about the Transition Town movement and sustainability. I helped establish a thriving community garden. I participated in Earth Hour and earnestly made my pledge for the climate. 

I grew veggies. My family rarely flew. We installed solar panels. I rode my new, fabulous electric cargo bike like I was Ms Sustainability in a parade. 

But while I was busy with all this, unbeknown to me, global emissions were still rising.

I changed my career to work in waste education. I enthusiastically pedalled the "one person can make a difference" story. I think I did good work encouraging people to live more sustainably. 

But sometimes, if I listened carefully, I could hear a sad whisper of guilt in some of the people I spoke with. I too was feeling guilty about the mountains of plastic that entered my house uninvited. I was getting cranky at my son for refusing to ride and use my homemade toothpaste; how dare he, I thought, I was doing this for him.

And guess what else? We flew to Britain to visit family and to Malaysia for pure pleasure. I felt guilty. 

But I was suspicious that there was more to the story. Shouldn’t someone else have their eye on this situation too? Someone like, say, politicians?

So I started writing to them. I had a few conversations with our local MPs and I liked them all a lot. They all seemed to get it. 

I was also encouraged by a vague understanding that the Paris Climate Talks in 2015 were a success. 

I later learned that the "well below 2oC" bit that we all celebrated was just talk. All the countries submitted their own Nationally Determined Contribution that, if met, will take us to 3oC. That is not conducive to life on Earth. 

Despite the best diplomats and scientists the world has to offer, global emissions were still rising and are set to continue to rise.

It was the kids getting cranky and telling me to panic that pricked my ears up. Then my good friend invited us over for a cuppa and a chat around a fire. He was desperately worried. I did a little research. Welcome to climate emergency freak-out #2.

After all these years I have stuck my head up and realised with horror that the situation is worse than at freak-out #1. Despite all our collective good behaviour and hard work, despite endless campaigns, intergovernmental meetings and mountains of science, nothing has worked. 

Instead, global emissions are still rising.

I have been thinking a lot about the past 12 years and this personal burden we have had lumped on us: "Your actions count", "One person can make a difference". 

I do not think this is true. I think it is a trick. It distracts us from the real problem and makes us feel so guilty we cannot speak out: "Who am I to criticise government or big business when I don’t even ride to work". 

The truth is that we are all utterly imperfect, but none of us deserve to have a finger pointed at us. I am over that. 

We all have a voice and we are starting to find it, some of us in Extinction Rebellion. 

I had been worried that all this hard work trying to do the right thing has been a waste of time because you-know-what is still rising. But I do not think it has been. 

When people come together to garden or DIY some waste-free thing, we are meeting our greatest ally, our strongest tool and the thing that will nurture us: community.

Now we need to awaken its power — our power.

As for our governments: they have had 30 plus years to take serious action. They all know the crisis we face, but our democracy is imperfect too. It runs on short-term cycles, it excludes the youth, other (important) issues muddy the water, and those running the show have too much skin in the game. 

Left to its own devices, government cannot solve this. Not without us. 

The government needs us beautifully imperfect people to force its hand to move to an emergency footing guided by a citizen’s assembly. We need to take back the government and to awaken its power. 

To rebel, to use civil disobedience, is a "break glass here in case of emergency" response. It is an absolutely legitimate and valid way to bring about change when our imperfect democracy cannot cope with an emergency. 

And this is an emergency. So I have come to embrace the Extinction Rebellion movement. 

I am not really a rebel at heart. It does not really come naturally to me. I was brought up a Christian (still am) and to respect authority (still do). 

But I was also brought up to pursue what is right, to love the planet and all those on it, and to do my best for my family. 

So I have joined the Rebellion.

[Amy Warne is a mum, wife, worker, community member and Extinction Rebellion WA activist.]

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