Not prepared to be a “passive citizen” any more

Guest blog by Jack Harries

My name is Jack Harries. I’m a 25 year old living in London and I grew up in Chiswick.

As a documentary filmmaker focusing on issues around Climate Change I’ve had the chance to travel to Greenland to document glacial retreat, to Somaliland to cover drought and recently to the remote island of Kiribati to make a short film about sea level rise. Throughout my travels I have visited some of the ‘front lines’ of climate change and to put it frankly I am scared for the state of my future. We are experiencing ecological breakdown on multiple fronts. In fact scientists are saying that we have entered a new geological epoch known as ‘The Anthropocene’ – The era of human caused permanent planetary change. This has been illustrated recently in media reports, by the UN announcing that we have 12 years to limit climate catastrophe and the WWF suggesting that humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970.

I think as my generation are starting to learn about these issues they are feeling scared, overwhelmed and angry, especially given our politicians’ complete inability to acknowledge the issue. Philip Hammond’s recent budget failed entirely to mention climate change.

I became aware of the group Extinction Rebellion last year whilst making a film about the air pollution crisis in London. I had a chance to interview Roger Hallam, an organic farmer doing a PhD in direct action activism at Kings College. Roger is somewhat of a legend in the environmental scene in London and although  ‘ER’ claims to have no leaders or organisers it would be fair to say the group is his brain child.

Extinction Rebellion is a group formed of thousands activists and backed by over 100 senior academics from across the UK. In a letter published in the Guardian they say the failure of politicians to tackle climate breakdown and the growing extinction crisis means “the ‘social contract’ has been broken and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself.”

This weekend (17 November) saw the organisation’s first major demonstration. At 11.00am on a sunny Saturday morning 6000 people shut down five bridges in central London resulting in 82 arrests. I was proud to be one of those activists. I can’t speak for others attending the protest but on Westminster bridge where I sat it was a surprisingly peaceful and happy atmosphere with music, dancing, speeches and multi faith celebrations.

Whilst the event of course may have caused some people an inconvenience, it is nothing compared to the challenges that threaten our future. We are at a breaking point. For far too long governments have avoided action on climate change by banking on the fact that young people don’t understand the issues. If it proved anything I hope Saturday communicated a clear message that my generation understand what is happening, that we are scared for our future and we won’t stand by and be passive citizens any more.

Jack Harries is a member of Extinction Rebellion