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JOINING EXTINCTION REBELLION ON THE HIGHWAY TO HELL

Tomas Ford at Extinction Rebellion, photo by Jamie Mykaela (facebook.com/jamiemykaela)
Tomas Ford at Extinction Rebellion, photo by Jamie Mykaela (facebook.com/jamiemykaela)

Citizen journalism from Tomás Ford with photos by Jamie Mykaela (facebook.com/jamiemykaela)

You’ve probably seen it on the news; Extinction Rebellion’s campaign of peaceful civil disobedience is drawing heaps of coverage at the moment. Catastrophic climate change has been a massive political elephant in the room for decades, and it’s so great that we’re finally talking about it (and not just because elephants are awesome). This week they are holding a series of actions that’ve seen the message to the offices of The West Australian, big resources companies and the streets – it culminates this Friday with a big public action called Flood The City.

Personally, I’d prefer to live on a habitable planet than one suffering heaps-of-degrees of warmth.

Tomás Ford

Personally, I’d prefer to live on a habitable planet than one suffering heaps-of-degrees of warmth. The effects of it are already happening – ice caps are melting, weather patterns are changing… hell, half of Australia is on fire again. In spring. It’s an enormous problem that goes way beyond what’s achievable with individual action – we need the kind of big changes that governments and big business can make. So I’ve become increasingly fired-up about this.

At the same time as I’ve (finally) started to freak out about climate change, the protest movement has been gathering heaps of steam. I’ve been along to a couple of the amazingly well run and peaceful Student Strikes For Climate and listened to a bunch of incredibly clue-ed in teenagers speak their mind about this. Which is great, ‘cos adults have let the status quo ride on this for decades. They have a right to be totally pissed off about the effect this is going to have on their life, but instead they’re passionate and articulate. I’d grown a bit jaded about protests, but being amongst those groups made me feel like it was worthwhile again. I came away with way more hope than I went in with.

Extinction Rebellion are a movement along the same lines. I headed into Parliament House today with my pal Jamie Mykaela to show my face and pull some rock moves for an AC/DC themed rock out on the steps. Jamie took some epic photos which we thought were too good not to share, so I thought I’d add some text, bung it in an email to the rad folks at Around The Sound, and we’d call it some kind of citizen journalism.

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The lyrics were changed to reflect the theme. A good thing, too – the original lyrics to ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ aren’t quite what you’d wanna shout in 2019. Instead we shouted about dirty deals done dirt cheap between the WA’s government and the resources sector. There was a variation on ‘High Voltage’ about solar panels. And one of ‘Highway To Hell’ about the… uh… highway to hell that we are on if the government doesn’t make some radical changes.

Yeah, it was really silly. And loud. It was as fun as it looks. And it got a bunch of coverage, so it did what it was meant to. As a lovely side-effect, I was on commercial TV news for five seconds! And not even in the audience of Telethon or A*MAZING or nothing! IT WAS THE ACTUAL NEWS!

Actually, I’ll calm down about the news for a second. They rightly reported that the crowd was small; I think crowd size isn’t the point of something like this and, honestly… it’s Perth. I live here – if you’re reading this, you probably do too. A small crowd is to be expected. The global climate strike was only a few weeks ago, and Perth is not a city where people are used to getting out onto the streets for political change. Hell, people here generally struggle to leave the house. Given how tied up many folks are with resources in this state, I think it’s incredible these protests have been so sustained. There’s clearly a lot of support for it.

With it being a small protest, it shed light onto the comically outsized police presence that is popping up at these things.. It was practically one police officer per protester, plus horses and vehicles. For a peaceful movement, with no intention of starting a riot, this was super-weird.

This followed the WA Police’s terrible behaviour at last months’ Global Climate Strike march, where my understanding is that a verbal agreement with police to walk up St Georges Terrace (where many of the resources companies are based) was rescinded without notice as the crowd marched towards it. Police cars barricaded the street – you could see the shock in the eyes of the crowd of thousands of (mostly) school kids, as they realised they were betrayed by folks they’d thought were there to protect them.

Public protest is a cornerstone of any democracy. Sometimes you’ve gotta get out onto the streets because the government has made a mess of something. These intimidation tactics should be of concern to anyone who has ever had an opinion about anything ever.

The media coverage has been less than clear about what the movements aims are, so here’s a quick primer. Extinction Rebellion are calling for the declaration of a climate emergency. It’s time for a proper acknowledgement by government that the scientifically proven catastrophe is happening and to start to find solutions. They are also calling for the government to act to halt biodiversity loss and reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025, and for the establishment of a Citizen’s Assembly on climate change.

It’s all pretty sensible stuff to me and today’s ridiculousness was part of a week of action that finishes off with a ton of actions in the city on Friday under the banner Flood The City. If you’ve been thinking of getting involved, this is a good time to do it – there’s a bunch of things happening, and all you’ve gotta do is turn up and show your support. Full information about this action is available here.

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