Letter to the editor: We shouldn't point fingers

12 June 2019

Extinction Rebellion activists avoid pointing the finger at others, argues Cllr Chris Rigby.  His letter, published in the Bournemouth Echo, reads as follows:

"As I sit back and read your weekend column by Faith Eckersall, I’m astounded by the lack of understanding shown about what Extinction Rebellion (XR) are doing and why, and how she and her “old man” claim to be a lot greener, but not as attention worthy. I’m sure this opinion piece was not written to garner her any attention, but to raise her valid concerns over a type of protest unseen in the UK before this spring.

"As an XR activist, Greenpeace activist, environmental campaigner and Green Party councillor, I feel compelled to respond and clear up Ms Eckersall’s understanding of the movement. Whilst I commend her on her desire not to waste leftover Farrow & Ball paint, produce her own compost, purchase items second hand and the encouragement of her children to create habitats for wildlife, I must point out one of my favourite values that all XR members share: “We avoid blaming and shaming, we live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.” Ms Eckersall’s entire article is a direct attack upon people who are demanding that world leaders take action on climate change, yet not a single person involved would do anything besides congratulate Ms Eckersall on her own personal efforts to create change.

"The article states “What extinction rebellion folks seem to want is a vast clipping of other folks’ lifestyle but little change to impinge their own.” I would like to invite Ms Eckersall to attend any XR meeting, and meet the grass roots activists involved in this movement, and take a look at the changes they are all making to reduce their environmental impact as much as possible, within the constraints of our current society.

"She will meet vegans, individuals who have not flown for many years, people who have given up owning cars, others involved in permaculture, and those who have turned their back on the fashion industry to purchase only second hand, amongst many more who make changes every day to lead their lives in the most ethical ways possible. Some have been environmental campaigners for decades, others have been involved for a matter of weeks, but we all share one ambition: to create change in the world, and within ourselves.

"Extinction Rebellion wants to create change on a global level, to prevent catastrophic climate collapse, whilst we all make our individual contributions on whatever level we can afford; we sadly can’t all afford a garden to line dry our clothes. We also campaign completely non-violently to call on governments to change their policies to lead us to a greener, sustainable future for everyone.

"When I was in London, and on Waterloo Bridge for rebellion week, I met kind-hearted, passionate, environmentally conscious and generous people. These people were also terribly grief stricken for what we have done to this planet, and how we’re almost at irreversible climate catastrophe. From this grief also came a desire and a power that I was so lucky to witness and be a part of: a belief that XR can become the change we all want to see and truly make a difference to our future on Earth.

"My call to Ms Eckersall, who truly sounds like she cares, and to others is to say, let us join together and not point fingers at those who make an effort to enact a positive change in any way that they can. Let us work together to bring back empty houses into use, saving the need to develop on our green belts, let’s save our trees and green spaces together, let’s encourage each other to take greener steps in our personal lives, and let us all speak together as one to tell our government we need system change not climate change."

CLLR CHRIS RIGBY, Green Party, Winton East

It was refreshing to see that the majority of the online comments in response to this letter were supportive, one pointing out that they were acting “... with the emphasis on peaceful albeit obstructive demonstrations, very much in the tradition of Suffragettes 1930s UK, Ghandi 1940s India, Martin Luther 1960s US, Nelson Mandella 1990s South Africa...” Chris was one of the activiists who glued himself to the railings and was arrested at the XR demonstration last month.  Together with Simon Bull, also a Green Party Councillor on the new BCP Council, calling for the Council to declare a Climate Emergency at his first Council meeting.

The letter, photograph and all comments can be read in the Bournemouth Echo here.

The local Green Party is proud to have such energetic and committed representatives on the Council.

Jonathan Bartley, the co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, said: “Nearly half of the young people of the UK are putting the environment among their top concerns, and no wonder. They can see governments making decisions about their future that take no account of our climate emergency.

“In sounding the alarm about the state of our environment, we are the party on the right side of history. Now we are aiming to step up to lead the action in this national emergency.”