The climate activist from London talks about her passions
Interview by Sam Haddad, photo by Sam Ashley
Our ambitions with The Climate Rush are huge. We want to recreate the suffragette movement, where 500,000 people are prepared to go to prison for what they believe in.
Why the suffragette movement? We’re definitely trying to legitimise our methods of protest. Every big lifting of consciousness has been proceeded by a movement of civil disobedience. People didn’t used to think women or black people were equal, and they thought it was ok to have slaves. Climate change is another whole social justice issue and a cultural shift is needed.
If people don’t think climate change is their thing, you start by looking for a shared identity. You say as women we’re worried for these reasons – 75 per cent of the world’s poor are women, and 85 per cent of climate refugee migrants are women – it’s a problem that will affect women, especially in the “global south”, in a terrifying way. Women make the consumer decisions and have huge power. Why do we want to shop at Primark and not Oxfam? Why do we need new stuff when all this stuff is already there?
You can’t ask the government to do something if you’re not prepared to do it yourself. Right now there doesn’t seem to be a public mandate asking for change so they can hide behind that and say well we’ve told you it’s a problem but none of you are making those changes to your lifestyles.
We have this whole new moral context with climate change. We have to re-examine our values and question everything from should I eat meat to should I take that flight. The law is going have to start reflecting that. Eventually we want it to be illegal to have an SUV and take more than two flights a year, in a scary non-libertarian kinda way.
India and China are aware of climate change and how it’s going to hit them really hard but they also need to see us investing in it. We can’t tell them to stop consuming when we are consuming12 times as much. It would be really great if the UK could have this new international role leading the world on climate change.
With direct action people should go as far as they feel comfortable. But once you get clued into the facts about climate change, and the very short time limit, there’s this urgency and frustration. It’s creative rather than violent. The Climate Rush is saying this can be really fun and provide you with something that matters to you, and at the heart of what you’re doing as a group of friends or a community of people is actually of social importance. Lots of people shrug off responsibility and finding out more about stuff because they think what can they reasonably do about it anyway. I’m just one person in a massive sea of people.
Two years ago I wouldn’t have seen myself as someone who used breaking the law as a system of protest. I was living with two people from Plane Stupid but was more into getting my English degree done. They convinced me to go to the Heathrow Climate Camp and before I went I wanted to know why I was going, so read lots of climate science and it was just like now I know. There’s a reason why no one wants to open their eyes to it and it’s because of realising the reality of emissions and what cuts need to be made is a life-changing discovery. I’d like to pretend it’s easier than that but it isn’t and everything suddenly has this new slant and you can’t just carry on as you were.
I have strong grandmas who have both had a very strong impact on what I think I’m entitled to. Some people find that intimidating and want you to shut up but now isn’t the time for shutting up.
1000 protesters rushing at parliament might get violent but if it’s 1000 women dressed as suffragettes with nice costumes and tea and cake what can they do? The police can’t really stomp down on us as we’re largely women and we’ve dressed really well for the occasion!
You’ve got to capture people’s hearts and minds. It’s no good just sitting with people that agree with you and feeling righteous. Your readers should protest more and buy less.