War and Peace

Yesterday’s Rebellion included the XR Peace mobilisation protesting outside the Ministry of Defence. There were four arrests. The focus was, naturally, that just as climate chaos will force millions to migrate, so it will cause wars. War for liveable land as our soils become barren, wars for water rights, and wars for food as shortages increase. And military violence to repel migrants from national borders.

The invasion of Kurdish territories inside Syria on the same day gave an heady resonance to the cry for Peace. Whilst protesters in Trafalgar Square held a period of mourning for the lives already lost through climate change and the billions yet to prematurely ended through war, drought, disease and famine, the very real theatre was being enacted across the Middle East.

Predictably, by today, there are pictures of the fearful faces of mothers and their crying children hurriedly packed onto the backs of pick-up trucks and queuing along the desert escape roads away from Turkish guns. Hundreds of bombs dropped on civilians, tanks crushing shacks, troops on the ground trampling the vulnerable crops.

These scenes have become so familiar and commonplace since the first Gulf War in 1990, that after 30 years they are all-but routine on our screens and we are at an emotional impasse. 

There is a premium on empathy these days. So many sights and sounds of suffering that a Googlemaps 360-degree spin around our conscience is enough to numb all senses for sheer self-protection. The scenes of local poverty are everywhere, with cardboard mats in doorways now part of any shopping expedition. The human degradation of drug addiction clearly mapped upon a passing  face on an urban street, and the dishevelled elderly shuffling painfully through the Pound Shop are all too familiar.

Most of us have only so much we can give, rationing and then running-out of pound coins in purses and pockets to give to the street beggar, and drying-up the emotional compassion we can offer through our warm eyes and words. In the end we are forced into a condition of self-protection, fending-off any guilty conscience through symbolic acts of individual penance. After all, we’re not responsible for the housing crisis or barbaric wars. At least we recycle and re-use. And we, too, wish to survive.

Taking-in war atrocities really does demand strength and resilience. They’re happening far away and to “other people”, however you perceive and digest that description. Similarly, putting ourselves in the shoes of migrants is a challenge the minute we have a home and an income. And then there’s climate change.

The super-typhoon about to hit Tokyo can only be the stuff of imagination or Hollywood disaster movie to those of us in calmer climes. The endless drought in California might engage emotional resonance from those days of scorching heatwaves at home or on Mediterranean vacation, but living in it, with it, for the foreseeable future? Can you imagine?

Being suddenly engulfed by flames from a forest is all but unimaginable even for those in woodland homes, but having our living-room inundated by floodwater inside one minute has become the experience of near-neighbours here in Britain. We are in receipt of so many sensations of the potential climate catastrophe heading our way that it’s becoming harder to ignore. Even the Rugby world championships have been disrupted! The premonition of becoming overwhelmed is very real. It evokes  a near-constant state of anxiety. 

It is being reported that people are visiting their doctors to complain of significant bouts of anxiety and depression the cause of which, they suggest, is the current debate over Brexit and resultant uncertainty over the future. Perhaps this is media hype, but should such a phenomenon be in any way real it would be easy to understand why people cannot address the climate emergency to the extent necessary to prevent catastrophe. It’s all too much.

Today’s Extinction Rebellion core discourse has been on the subject of Global Justice, with assemblies in St James’s Park (just before the Police forcibly cleared us out) and beyond considering the issues facing the Global South in particular. War is on that agenda. And it is unnecessary to disentangle the assault of the Turkish State upon the Kurdish people in Syria from the dislocation caused by climate breakdown. The ragged trail of fleeing refugees are the same in both cases. The cause and effect have coalesced.

There is an oil pipeline from Iran to the West runs through Turkey. China would like to have influence and partnership with this buffer state between East and West. Indeed, every State and every corporation wants to be the best of friends with Turkey. Who cares that its a Police State, threatening to free the captured religious fundamentalist soldiers of the war in Syria and send them North to destabilise and destroy. 

The Kurds will be the latest collateral damage of this endless war for Oil. Endless, that is, until we force system change for a zero carbon economy and full-on global justice for all. Destabilisation from conflict is with us and just as threatening to the future of our societies and economies as climate change. The two are, indeed, intrinsically linked. And non-violent direct action is needed against both. Stop the War – Save the Climate!

Thursday 10th October 2019

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