Another interview with an Extinction Rebellion activist, this time, Zoe.
- Who are you, why did you get involved, what have you done in Mcr and in London?
I’m Zoe. I’m a self-employed coach, and Mum to a wonderful teenage daughter. I got involved in XR because I couldn’t not do. I’ve been trying to tread lightly on the planet since I went vegetarian at 12 years old and have been involved in animal welfare/green/sustainability and low carbon stuff for many years. I chaired a community energy company for 3 years and I’m proud of what we did, as a small group of volunteers, but always felt that although it was great, there was so much more that was needed. I am a big picture person and I’ve become increasingly aware that our whole capitalist, consumerist system is totally broken and is incapable of being ‘the answer’. I became aware of XR at the end of last year and was really inspired by the London bridge blocking. I went to my first Manchester XR meeting in January and immediately felt at home. I quickly became a volunteer giving the ‘Heading for Extinction’ Talks around the North West. I’ve also been doing lots of social media for the movement, both for XR and more generally, and building my online networks to help amplify the messages, because it’s so important to raise awareness of the climate and ecological emergency we’re facing – especially as Government and mainstream media haven’t been telling people the truth.
I arrived in London on Sunday and went straight to Hyde Park to get trained up to be a ‘Street Inductor’, ie, someone who can run a condensed training session for new arrivals in London who aren’t yet part of a group and want to get involved. Then I took part in the meditation and vigil with the Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams outside St Paul’s Cathedral. I am not religious, but I am a spiritual person, and this was a beautiful thing to be part of.
Monday morning at 6:30am was loading huge amounts of kit and supplies at the XR HQ into a van heading for Parliament Square and then helping unload it with a group of other XR folk, including some from my own ‘affinity group’ – everyone just mucks in with everything – the power of such a strong shared purpose.
The rest of the time til Thursday morning was spent road blocking, leafleting the public, or doing Street inductions – and getting arrested in Parliament Square on Wednesday evening. This was the first time I’ve ever been arrested for anything in my life – when it came to it, I felt I had no choice, I am a Mum and I have to do whatever I can to protect my daughter – as well as to help other people around the world and the plant and animal species that are under threat and disappearing fast.
There were so many arrests that everything took a long time – and so I had a good 9 hours to spend talking to the very lovely Met police officers about why we we’re doing what we were doing. They were pretty supportive of our actions.
- How can XR be more inclusive, address legitimate race/class concerns?
My experience has been that there is more diversity than has been portrayed in the media. Certainly, in terms of age, gender, background, disability. For example, at the police station after I was arrested, our queue of XR folk ranged from a 20-year-old male student to a 76-year-old grandmother. I truly hope that broader engagement of more people from BAME backgrounds will follow soon as the movement becomes more and more known.
- What skills, knowledge, relationships do you think XR ppl need to cultivate in the short term?
XR welcomes everyone and every part of everyone, so I don’t think there are skills which aren’t important – everything we have can be employed to help – from organising skills, to creativity, to meditation! In the short term we need to be reflective and learn from what we’ve done so far; we need to be resilient because this is a marathon and not a sprint; and we need to look after ourselves and each other. I think wider communications skills will become increasingly important as will political and public engagement – as we enter different phases of the movement and hopefully enter dialogue with politicians and others about the demands required to address the crisis we face. We will need to keep challenging ourselves and each other as we move forward.
- Given that intense activity is unsustainable (emotionally, physically, practically), how does XR Mcr plan to sustain radical action over the summer?
I think this will emerge through reflection, learning and working together – it also depends in my view what emerges from the London actions
- What can so-called “non-arrestable” people do?
Lots! There is an enormous amount of behind the scenes work to do, at local and national levels, which doesn’t involve arrest – from strategy and fundraising, to social media and communications. At local group level there’s also plenty of practical support that’s needed, eg, organising venues and meetings for ‘Heading for Extinction’ Talks to be given, and promoting these to the public; or making banners. And of course, when there are actions like in London and locally, there is plenty of practical and emotional support needed too. A small but important thing that everyone reading this can do (if they don’t already) is make sure they are having conversations about the climate and ecological emergency with friends, family, work colleagues etc – we have got to get, and keep, everyone talking about this – it’s been unspoken for far too long. And of course, anyone in a position to can also make a donation via https://rebellion.earth/donate/ – everyone in XR are volunteers and so everything done happens through donations…
- How does XR plan to cope with the “Tyranny of Structurelessness” identified by Jo Freeman?
I think that XR are working very consciously to think through how we deal with power and mitigate for the potential negative side effects of any form of human organising. In fact, my experience is XR founders such as Gail Bradbrook are giving this more intelligent, reflective and honest thought than any large ‘normal’ organisation I’ve ever worked in or with! There’s regular video sharing from XR for anyone to see – an example of Gail talking about Power, Decision Making & Strategy in XR is here
- Anything else you’d like to say
Some people have been critical about the disruption caused to Londoners etc – but I believe that blaming XR for disruption is like blaming a fire alarm for waking you up! We must all wake up very soon or it will be too late to prevent a 2 degree + world, and all the horrors that will surely unfold, so many of which are already showing themselves…
Please come and get involved! We’re an incredibly friendly and supportive bunch – whether you live in Manchester or further afield there are a number of local groups – look them up on Facebook and come along. After all, we’re all in this together