Interview with Jennie Gibson, on #climatebreakdown, #Manchester and ‘what is to be done’

Jennie Gibson is one of the people involved in Fridays for the Future (and other activities) who MCFly is interviewing. If you want to answer these questions (especially if you don’t tick many/any of the following boxes – white, middle-class, university-educated, able-bodied, cis-gendered – then get in touch via

a) if you could have the undivided attention of Manchester’s
political, economic and cultural leaders for a few minutes, what would
you say to them? (what scientific work should they be reading, what
cultural work, if you want to add)
IMG_4352.JPGI’d like to ask them what their views are on climate breakdown and how
they think the next 10 years are going to play out. I think that’s
really important to understanding the lack of action and urgency in
Manchester. If you’re up to date with the terrifying information about
biodiversity and climate collapse surely you’d be doing everything you
can to mitigate and adapt?

You really don’t need to dig too hard to find out how bad things are.
I’d recommend following of the brilliant scientists on Twitter, that’s
how I get most of my information, someone like Prof. Julia Steinberger
would be an excellent starting point (she’s a bit of a hero of mine).
There is absolutely no excuse for the leading figures in Manchester to
not be fully informed on something that is going to have an impact on
every area of our lives.

b) If you could have the undivided attention of Manchester’s active
citizens (not just on climate, but other issues) for a few minutes,
what would you say to them?)
If we want to create the sort of communities we need for the future
then we have to realise that the people in charge aren’t going to lead
the way. The system as it is is failing us on every level. In the UK
there is currently no provision for food shortages due to another
summer of droughts so as communities we need to be thinking ahead, how
are we going to make ourselves resilient? How are we going to support
each other when the shit really hits the fan?

There are some amazing groups working towards this already, Incredible
Edible, Let’s Keep Growing in Longsight and Levenshulme Repair Cafe
are just a few examples.

c) Tell us a bit about the last few months of (climate) activism. Why
and how did you get involved? What have you learnt? What has gone
well, what is still a “work in progress”?
This time last year I was totally absorbed in having a newborn baby,
then the summer hit and I had a big panic after reading an article on
‘hothouse earth’. I genuinely hadn’t realised until last year that we
were heading for absolute catastrophe. After a period of feeling
totally paralyzed I decided to try and do something about it and
joined Extinction Rebellion. It’s not always easy doing actions with
small children (although Sylvie, age 1, has been to demos, strikes and
council meeting disruptions) so I decided to start a Fridays For
Future gathering outside the Town Hall after reading about Greta
Thunberg. I didn’t really have any firm ideas about what I wanted to
achieve other than letting the council know that I was watching them
and possibly meeting some sympathetic people to share my fears for the
future with. It has turned into a place for experienced and new
activists to come and meet, as well as acting as a form of therapy for
the increasing number of people who need someone to talk to. We may
not be changing the world but building connections and comforting each
other feels like a good way to spend my energy.
There are some days when I really struggle to balance this with being
a mum to my two small children. I feel a lot of guilt for having
unwittingly brought them into a world where their future is so
uncertain. I also feel guilty when I’ve got my nose in my iPhone doing
activist related stuff when I should be focusing my energy on them.
Some days it feels like a lose-lose situation but they are the driving
force behind everything I do.

d) What kinds of support would you like to see for all activists (but
especially the youth and the new)? What would you like to see us doing
that we are not, is there anything you’d like us to do less of/not at
As a middle-class white woman I’d not realised the barriers that stop
some people from getting involved with activism, particularly
Extinction Rebellion. In order for the movement to grow we have to
address these barriers. It’s not XR’s fault that people of colour face
institutional racism but it is up to us to acknowledge the privilege
that people like me have and work towards creating a fairer society.
I’m really grateful to the many voices out there who are calling us
out about this and making us feel uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable
is good, it’s how we change for the better.

I have encountered a fairly patronising attitude from some white men
of a certain age who have been campaigning for years (the online world
is especially bad). There is still a lot of ‘ego’ within the movement
and this has to be thrown out if we are to get anywhere.

e) anything else you’d like to say!
As someone who doesn’t naturally gravitate to the scientific
nitty-gritty of climate breakdown I have had to learn not to beat
myself up about not being able to quote facts and figures when
discussing our predicament. I’m not the sort of person who is going to
sit down and read the IPCC report in full (I barely have time for an
average online newspaper article!) and that’s ok. It’s going to take
all sorts of folk to change the trajectory we are currently on,
including those of us who tend to act from the heart rather than the


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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