Left to Right, from top left: Bath, Bournemouth, Dorchester, Topsham, Exeter, Frome, Christchurch, Cheltenham, Weymouth, Sherborne, Exeter, Cleveden.
At 11am on Saturday 1st May, two years to the day since the UK Parliament declared an environment and climate emergency, traffic came to a standstill in towns and cities across the West Country as Extinction Rebellion protesters took part in a nationally organised ‘Rebellion of One’.
Rebels from Bath, Bournemouth, Christchurch, Cheltenham, Coleford, Cleveden, Dorchester, Exeter, Frome, Sherborne, Weymouth and Newquay expressed their rage at government inaction on the climate emergency, by sitting down peacefully, in the road blocking traffic. Each carried a sign with a personal message. They are terrified for the future. They will not be bystanders to more lies, inaction and broken promises.
This vulnerable act of peaceful civil disobedience by ordinary people – including doctors, nurses, teachers, students, parents and grandparents – highlighted the fear and frustration felt by many at the failure of the UK Government to take the climate and ecological crisis seriously.
Young rebels CJ and Louis spoke passionately about their reasons for taking part in this courageous action.
CJ, from Bath said “I’m doing this as an act of desperation. As a young person my life will be irreversibly changed by the climate and ecological emergency and the UK government isn’t acting quickly enough to avoid disaster. Young people’s voices are often ignored when it comes to issues on the climate. I have tried all the legal methods including writing to my MP, signing petitions and even going on strike, and all the time carbon emissions have been rising. I now see no other option except to risk my life and civil liberties by blocking roads.”
Louis, 20 from Bournemouth carried a sign that said “I am terrified to have children because of the climate crisis”. He explained: “If mass peaceful direct action is what it takes for our leaders to pull their heads from the sand, then I refuse to be a bystander to the burning of our planet. To me, Rebellion of One is an act of love for the planet and its inhabitants.”
Boris Johnson recently announced that the UK would ‘toughen’ its climate targets, pledging to cut emissions by 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels, as part of the pathway to net zero emissions by 2050.  However, in December last year, the National Audit Office reported that the UK Government will fail to meet its existing climate targets and that a radical reassessment of priorities was needed. 
The Committee on Climate Change – the body tasked with monitoring government progress on reducing emissions and preparing for climate change– said in its progress report last June that the UK has failed on 17 out of 21 progress indicators, falling further behind in many areas and that just two of 31 key policy milestones had been met over the first year since Parliament declared an emergency.  The 2050 date is itself under question, with top scientists including Former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government Sir David King writing to tell Boris Johnson that the UK should be aiming to reach net zero emissions by around 2030. 
Matt, 63 from Christchurch said:” We are at a tipping point. Governments have delayed action for 40 years, while claiming to be climate leaders. Now we need drastic action to prevent a dangerous increase in global temperatures. The public need to be told that this will mean changes to every aspect of our lives. The alternative is terrifying.”
Patti,54 from Devon said “This is a personal act of expressing my opinion. It may resonate with others who are going about their lives and also feel similar despair; feeling at a loss to know how to get the message across to our leaders that their lack of action is seriously harmful to the future of the planet and our lives and all who come after us. Until such action is demonstrated I feel it is a just action for ordinary people to continue to step up (or sit down!) to demand change.”
Ben, 35, a Geologist, from Dorchester said, “I’m terrified for biodiversity and humanity. We cannot gamble with 1.5C, allow the extinction of coral reefs, marginal communities to lose their lands and ways of life, and the breakdown of the biosphere, creating a world of scarcity and conflict. Out of love for life and life-giver I must resist.”
Margaret Turner, 81 from Exeter echoed Ben’s concerns, “When I was a girl Spring brought the return of swallows and the sound of the cuckoo; sadly my grandchildren have never heard the cuckoo! Last Sunday I sat by the river to watch for swallows and sand martens: nothing. It hurts.”
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