Extinction Rebellion: Culture Declares, an Op-Ed by Trash4Gold
‘We’re all (nearly) totally fucked’ read the flyer that advertised the Extinction Rebellion’s talks that were given by Clare Farrell and Sara Arnold at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art this week.
While hundreds of students in the building were designing and making new products, Clare and Sara were talking about the very real consequences of making too much. It’s worrying that the audience was small when this topic is so big, do so few people care about the existence of the human race? The talk was called ‘Heading to Extinction and what to do about it’ and, as Sara told me, aimed to “educate people on the truth about the climate crisis.”
Mind-blowing facts and figures, backed up credible climate scientists were introduced to the room. These included that The World Bank has estimated that by 2050, 140 million people will be displaced because of rising sea levels - as a result insurance companies are open about the fact that they are no longer insuring homes in coastal areas. They also highlighted that 50% of UK farmers lost their crops because of the heatwave in 2018 and that one in five British mammals could be extinct within a decade. If this doesn’t shock you, you need to jump out of your bubble and back into reality.
Clare and Sara are both climate change activists – members of Extinction Rebellion, a collective of non-violent protesters who are demanding the government take action against climate change. The group began as Rising Up, which was founded in 2016 and morphed into Extinction Rebellion two years later. This happened when Roger Hallam and 16 other individuals came together with a combined vision for change. Hallam is a beardy bloke, who has been an organic farmer for 20 years and is studying for his PhD in effective radical campaign design at King's College London. Since 2016 Extinction Rebellion (XR) have multiplied, there is now 150,000 members with 200 regional groups operating in the UK. Whoop Whoop!
A good old road block is one of their favourite tactics. The aim being to disrupt business as usual for as long as possible in order to get the government to speak to them. It’s not all doom and gloom – several British councils including Sadiq Khan’s London Assembly have accepted some of their demands. Many may think what on earth is standing in the road going to do, but we can’t deny it’s slowly working.
XR are adamant that the government start to tell the truth about climate change and declare that we are in a state of emergency. This is not fake news; a group of climate scientists have predicted that we could lose the arctic next year – if we lose our icy friend, we lose the ecosystem as we know it. Other demands include that the media work to communicate with citizens and that a people’s assembly in parliament is formed. This is true democracy. The collective also want Westminster to put a plan in place to ensure that UK’s carbon emissions are reduced by 2025.
It’s interesting to note that both Sara and Clare work in fashion, an industry which seriously needs to get its shit together. It’s a bloody greedy bugger which is gobbling up resources quicker than you can say ‘next season.’ The average citizen is unaware of the fact that it takes 2,700 litres of water to make one cotton t-shirt, or that three in five garments end up in a landfill each year. (There are countless environmental problems with the industry, if I listed them all we would literally be here till the end of the world.) Essentially, it’s a vicious circle of wanting, buying, discarding – we are making far too much and no longer treasuring what we already have.
Clare has been lecturing in sustainable fashion for 10 years and runs ‘No Such Thing’ a trans-seasonal line for cyclists made from recycled fabrics with non-toxic waterproofing – so you can look good and not feel guilty whilst on your bike. Sara, who studied Fashion Design and Marketing at Saint Martin’s, runs the rental company Higher Studio, which stocks designers with a sustainable focus –such as Patrick McDowell, Phoebe English, Ode to Odd and AGF Hydra. Also available to rent are pieces from bigger brands such as Comme de Garcons, Junya Watanabe and more. Higher Studio is making use of clothes that would otherwise be sat in people’s wardrobes. It’s the sharing economy baby!
It’s no coincidence that these talks at St Martins are taking place in the same week as the international school strikes - half the world is waking up. On Friday, climate change activism went viral with the hashtag #fridaysforfuture when one million school children across the globe ditched out on lessons and took to the streets to protest against climate inaction. From Canada, to India, Nigeria, to Paris’s #raveforclimate every continent grabbed their placards and took a stand. The students were inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee who led the first school strike in August 2018 – SHE’S 16!!
The Extinction Rebellion logo was spotted in the hands of school kids as far as India, and they’re now calling on cultural institutions to declare ecological emergency. ‘The Heading to Extinction and what to do about it’ talks are part of a wider XR campaign ‘culture declares’ that urges theatres, art centres, galleries and art schools to join the movement. Sara believes that we “have a moral obligation to save what can still be saved.” On the 15th April XR will be holding an international Rebellion – “don’t sit back and watch we are running out of time. It could be our last chance to save the world.” Save the date, before it’s too late - it’s not all down to the kiddos.
Images by Roxy Taya Furman