Solar Flares: Crossing the Line

Extinction Rebellion does not condone violence or property destruction, but they do embrace tactics that cross the line of civility just enough to disrupt people’s ordinary routines. The point is to raise awareness for the climate crisis, and also to encourage people to think about relative levels of inconvenience: if it irks you to be held up in traffic by a protest march, imagine how much it will suck when all these roads are underwater.

This past week has been particularly inconvenient on both ends of that scale. In London, tens of thousands of XR activists occupied bridges, roundabouts, and streets, causing massive delays and economic setbacks. But the complaining of shopkeepers and stockbrokers fades into background static when compared with the cries for help coming from Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick. And in Mozambique. And in Iran. And so on.

Economists speculate that climate collapse will cost anywhere from $24 trillion to $70 trillion dollars… and that’s just money. The human costs are incalculable.

Twice this week, I disrupted normalcy in my own small way. After affixing a stick of sidewalk chalk to a broom handle, I walked along Sydney’s waterfront boardwalk, drawing a line to show where the shoreline will rise by the end of the century. I paused every so often to add messages — “100 cm by 2100” and “Where will you draw the line?” and “A rising tide drowns all shores” — along with the XR logo, which is hopefully becoming more widely recognized in the wake of London’s actions.

Is it legal? Probably not. But chalk washes off (and it rains a lot these days), so it’s not property destruction, and it’s definitely not violent. While I was chalking, I had several constructive conversations with passersby who all agreed that action must be taken, now. So it’s arguably the opposite of violence — it’s gradual consensus-building, one stick of chalk at a time.

My Week in the Anthropocene

  • After putting a second call out to local high schools, I received a flood of interest from teachers. This week was a scramble to schedule the sessions — and to find help from CBU students, since by original co-presenter is no longer available. But it’s looking good!
  • I also met again with Suzi, the artist who is going to design my “single-use plastic” polar bear costume for Lumiere. She took my measurements and we hashed out some practical details, along with a construction timeline.
  • And I went to a potluck/seeding party! A car-free family in Whitney Pier was sharing seeds and stories, and hoping to make plans towards more collective action.

Solar Flares in a Warming World

  • Good news seemed to be in scant supply this week. But I enjoyed skimming this report from LUT University, Finland, which lays out a comprehensive, achievable transition plan to 100% renewable energy by 2050. There’s a lot in it that I can’t figure out yet, but it’s great to have documents like this to wave in people’s virtual faces when they claim there’s nothing to be done.

If You Read Just One Thing This Week About the Environment

  • I am in awe of the activists in the UK, putting their safety and liberty on the line to clarify the gravity of the crisis facing all human beings. The Guardian‘s photo-essay is a powerful re-cap of this moment in history that has been called “a tipping point” in the climate revolution.

Stay strong! Shine bright!



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