After taking part in the International Extinction Rebellion in London last week (and I stress here that as a widowed parent I never put myself in line to be arrested) and avidly consuming every bit of news and video footage in the press and on social media since, I am acutely aware that many people I know will be very critical of this movement. I have read probably every reason that the critics have against it and although I believe these actually come deep down from guilt, denial or just plain ignorance, I wanted to address some of them head on. So here goes…
It’s such an inconvenience
XR (Extinction Rebellion) realise that many people will have had journeys disrupted or otherwise be inconvenienced. They know this is frustrating and do apologise. But, the full impact of the climate crisis will be far more disruptive to everyone, everywhere as sea levels rise, crops fail and water shortages bite. The disruption is necessary today, in order to make the government act now to save our tomorrow. “Blaming Extinction Rebellion for disruption is like blaming your fire alarm for waking you up”. It’s inconvenient, but so is being extinct! It’s also worth noting that people lose many hours every day sitting intraffic jams on our clogged motorways and due to disruptions on the rail and tube networks anyway, and this could be remedied with a comprehensivegreen transport network if the government took climate action seriously.
It’s wasting policing time & resources
Granted, hundreds of police officers have been policing the rebellion. However, large scale policing operations take place all the time which would never be questioned in this way, such as big football derbies, carnivals, festivals and music events. To put it into perspective there were 13,000 police officers on duty at the 2015 Notting Hill Carnival, compared to the 1500 dealing with XR. The right to peacefully protest is permissible under UK law and is a fundamental human right backed by the United Nations. It also worth pointing out that a rising climate will lead to more violent crime ,so if we don't even attempt to stay within the recommended 1.5 degrees we will be looking at much worse than peaceful protests.
They drive, fly, use plastic bottles and wear clothes
The vast majority of rebels will have used public transport to get to London (as I did) and some even walked from Cornwall! They were all indeed wearing clothes, as we all do most of the time and some will have even used plastic and flown on actual planes at some point. They are not claiming to be perfect, pure beings but flawed humans trying to do their best, just like you and me. In the words of Jesus Christ 'let him who is without sin cast the first stone'. It also has to be said that pointing the finger at individual consumer behaviour is a diversion tactic that has been used to shift the focus from the big polluters, denialists and delayers. Such small incremental actions pale in comparison to the actions of top 100 fossil fuel businesses who are responsible for 71% of emissions. So what we do ourselves is simply not enough. Only a completely radical system change will keep the planet in a liveable state.
They're creating more pollution
The action in central London has significantly reduced pollution in those particular areas and has in fact not lead to any extra emissions in the surrounding areas according to local pollution data. In fact, hourly pollution concentrations went down as much as 45%. Many cyclists and visitors loved the car free areas and birdsong could be heard for the first time in many years.
They’ll leave behind all their mess
Everyone involved was asked to either bring their own crockery, cutlery and reusable drink bottles and clear away their own rubbish. All the protest sites had waste and recycling points and volunteers going round collecting rubbish and even sweeping the streets. All the (chalk) spray paint and art materials used would wash away in a rain shower and are non-toxic. All the protest areas were cleaned up thoroughly afterwards, before the rebels left the sites and they even helped out cleaning up Hyde Park after a separate event unrelated to them that was left covered in rubbish.
They’re a bunch of drop-out hippies
XR activists are of all ages, many walks of life and varied ethnicities. The majority are tax-paying, middle class people who are normally law-abiding citizens that are also accused of using their privilege. However, the western middle classes (especially those from the US and the UK) are the ones with the highest cumulative carbon footprints. So maybe it is right and just that it should be people from that segment of society who are using their ‘privilege’ to try and change things for everyone. The ravages of climate change are hitting the poorest first and the hardest, especially those in the global south who have the least power to do anything about it and contribute to CO2 levels the least. I do believe though that to build on the successful movement XR need to become more diverse by reaching out to a more diverse range of people, as this ‘hippy’ stereotype does put people off engaging with a matter that affects every single one of us.
They can afford to waste their time
Activists that spent many days down in London on the front line of the protests were not doing it for fun. If they weren't retired, most people took annual leave giving up precious time with their families to do what they felt they had to. They were risking their liberty, comfort and safety for the greater good. All of them would rather that the issues they are fighting for are being dealt with by our governments, so they could get on with their lives too just like everyone else. The IPCC told us that we have 12 years left to limit climate catastrophe, so to put it bluntly, there is no time to waste, no matter who's time it is.
They should do it in the proper way
Farhana Yamin is an internationally renowned lawyer who has worked for many years on climate change policy, through the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Climate Accord. As she states; 30 years of petitions, marches, letters to MPs, campaigning and donating to environmental groups has not changed the fact we are still on course for an unsustainable rise in global warming. She is now a passionate XR activist. Or to put it another way, if you knew someone was killing your child, you wouldn’t simply write them a letter to ask them to stop. You would do everything in power, lawful or otherwise to save them. A proportional response to a dying planet is not handing just out leaflets and asking nicely; otherwise the message will not be taken seriously.
Breaking the law is never acceptable
Non-violent civil disobedience has changed the world in the past, as particular groups have had to turn to drastic measures to get their point across. Women in Britain weren't allowed to vote until the suffragettes took their stand, some of whom went to prison. Black Americans were segregated from whites until the civil rights movement began and laws were broken. These hard fought for rights are what our modern societies are based on. Aren’t the fossil fuel and ‘dieselgate’ car companies who have lied to us, broken laws themselves, lobbied and funded politicians the real criminals here and why are they not held accountable? Aren’t world governments also being unlawfully neglectful to allow their citizens to be dying from polluted air, heatwaves and hurricanes? And that’s not to mention the ever increasing demise of our natural world.
But other countries are worse
As everyone mentions China as being the problem, it should be noted that the UK carbon footprint per capita (per person) is higher than China. As China are the workshop of the world they are making nearly all of our goods, which causes most of their carbon emissions. So in effect we in the west are offloading our emissions on to them. As the industrial revolution began in the UK, we effectively started the whole CO2 problem off, so its only right that we should be the ones to inspire and drive change. The world has been watching the rebellion happening in the UK and many other countries around the world. They have also seen the school strikes starting to spread too and it’s slowly waking people up. This is evident in The Green New Deal in the US which is now backed by 81% of registered voters; a massive shift for such a fossil fuel dependent country.
They're losing public sympathy
An independent survey was taken recently to assess the response of the general public to the rebellion protests in London. It found that 46% supported it, 41% think the UK government aren't doing a lot to tackle climate change, 61% agree that a citizen's assembly would do a better job and 83% agree that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humanity. XR have also had support from scientists, UN diplomats, politicians, academics, religious groups, and celebrities. Around 4000 people a day are signing up to join the rebellion and their website is receiving over 50,000 new visitors a day and have raised almost £200,000 for the cause. 21 business leaders have also signed an open letter in the Times to state that they support XR.
What’s the point?
For me, it all comes down to the fact that I want my son and his future children to grow up and have a long and healthy life in a beautiful world full of amazing animals, clear, blue seas and to be able to breathe clean, fresh air. I can’t imagine that anyone, no matter what their opinion of XR, would not want that for their loved ones. Our government, along with others around the world, have not just done too little, but have actually subsidised fossil fuel companies and damaging practices through their policies which are killing our world and our children's future. I cannot stand by and literally watch the world burn and have my son ask me later ‘why didn’t you do something?’
#rebelforlife #tellthetruth #extinctionrebellion
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Seasonal celebrations throughout the year are by their nature very wasteful in their celebration of feasting and excess. How can we as mindful consumers still enjoy these celebrations without contributing to landfill, carbon emissions, habitat loss other ethical problems?
Unless you are religious, eggs and more specifically chocolate eggs are what Easter is about for most people. However, most Easter eggs are packaged in plastic and so the average child receiving eggs from their family members will accumulate quite a pile of plastic waste as a result. There are many alternatives to these including making your own with chocolate moulds, making your own papier mache eggs or using cardboard, tin or wooden refillable eggs. You could even re-use something you already have like used Kinder Egg eggs or get something second-hand instead of buying anything new as this is significantly lower impact. If you are buying pre-made branded eggs then consider what it is you want to be eco/ethical about. There are some better options around that are either dairy-free, organic, fairtrade or palm oil free, but most are not all of the above. Please remember to recycle all packaging properly including the foil if this is your choice. Here and here are guides to some of the most ethical.
If you are using refillable eggs or putting together an Easter basket or egg hunt you will need extra treats too. If you are trying to steer away from the sugar overload that is Easter, then consider small wooden toys like the ones in my eco gift guide. Second hand shops would also be a good way to pick up small toys cheaply. Otherwise taking your own reusable containers to a sweet shop or a pick and mix area at your local supermarket will avoid all the extra packaging of mini eggs and the like.
Avoid buying plastic baskets, but if you already have one use it rather than replacing with something else as this is just waste in itself. Great plastic alternatives are traditional wicker baskets which you can often get from florists or online. They can be lined with straw, real grass or foliage, shredded paper from your recycling bin or scrap cotton fabric and ribbon. Once children have grown out of using these they can be reused for all sorts of things including gift hampers. Wire, felt or paper baskets or tin buckets are also a good cheap option and can be decorated by the kids to personalise them or do versions for the adults with gardening or pampering things. You could even use an up-turned Easter bonnet if you have one, so getting double the use!
Use nature as inspiration for creating your own decorations out of twigs, ribbons, hand dyed eggs and spring flowers. You can find ideas here and here on my Pinterest boards. Get your children involved with crafting chicks and bunnies out of scrap wool and fabric. Scouring your local second hand shops after Easter you will often pick up some bargains ready for the following year. Beautiful vignettes can be created out of all of these and other things you have around your home such as vases of flowers, lanterns and Easter goodies. Florist wreath frames can be decorated with fresh foliage and flowers and then used again with winter foliage at Christmas.
Wishing you all a happy and ethical Easter x
#ecoeaster #ethicaleaster #zerowaste
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Products made in Britain will most often demand a high price point, including British-made fashion. So why pay that extra cost? Is it worth that higher price?
Considering the industrial revolution and clothing manufacture began in Britain, it is not surprising that we are known around the world for producing high quality goods. Making simple, quality items is what we do best. John Smedley, for example, are the longest running factory in the world who still make beautiful, fine gauge knitwear just as they have done for hundreds of years.
Not all British factories are run ethically, it has to be said, but the majority of them are. Having a short supply chain makes it far easier for designers or brands to work closely with their makers to ensure ethical policies are adhered to. Britain also has high legal standards on workers’ rights, health and safety in the workplace and wage level minimums in comparison to other garment producing countries. Ethical credentials should always be checked and good brands will proudly show them.
Being close to the manufacturing base means significantly fewer miles are clocked up in shipping fabrics and goods around. This is evident in the example of Private White VC, 90% of their raw materials are sourced within a 40 miles of their factory. Road haulage for transportation also means less carbon emitted than sea or air cargo too. Global brands who manufacture off-shore in the far-east will have to fly regularly to oversee factory production, thereby further adding to their carbon footprint. Local production also means less waste is also produced due to being able to turn around stock much quicker.
Britain has produced many great designers and among them Vivienne Westwood, Mary Quant and Paul Smith have a unique ‘Britishness’. This is often expressed with quirkiness and sense of humour that you don’t often find anywhere else. On the other hand designer brands such as Burberry and Stella McCartney offer the more aspirational side of British design classics. This is also embodied in British icons of design such as the Mini, Rolls Royce and even Dyson.
Providence and a strong story are often a big part of what a British brand is about. Hiut denim & HebTroCo are great examples of this. They both brought manufacturing back to the area they are from before it disappeared forever and produce quality pieces made to last using traditional techniques and preserving local skills and economies. What started as personal missions with a passion for their local communities are now highly successful and acclaimed businesses with a real personal touch.
Britain has a rich textile heritage that many brands draw from including the production of high quality cloths such as tweed, linen and tartan. There are many regional areas that have historical or even current links to fashion & textile manufacturing. From lace making in Nottingham, to knitwear in Hawick, Scotland, from shoe making in Northampton, to woollen cloth in Yorkshire, Britain has it all .
All this put together means you are often buying a product with real authenticity, that will last a long time and could sell well at a later date. What could be better slow fashion than that?
Boy Wonder is of course proudly made in Britain for all the reasons above. Be aware, however, that many brands portray themselves as being British by putting a Union Jack on their products whilst not actually making them in Britain at all.
Do you have a favourite made in Britain brand? Do you buy British? What does British made mean to you? We would love to hear from you x
#madeinbritain #britishdesign #fashionmiles
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