Highland campaigner Dr Ruth Dunster on why we all need to take action on 'existential nightmare charging towards us'
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Have a look at our brand new digital subscription packages!
I remember two very different conversations I had back in the early days of becoming an environmental campaigner, writes Highland campaigner Dr Ruth Dunster of Extinction Rebellion (XR).
The first was with a taxi driver who told me bleakly that “it doesn’t matter what we do, they’re going to go ahead and do what they want” (the “we’re all doomed” argument).
They certainly will if we sit back and do nothing! I quipped back at him –and in that case, the Scottish anti-fracking campaign, it turns out I was right.
The second conversation gave me more to think about.
It was a neighbour, in his seventies, who (to this day) still goes out five days a week along nature spot paths litter picking. What a guy! “If we all do our bit,” he said, “we’ll be ok.”
How could I argue with him? I could only respect him and take my hat off to him. It wasn’t in me to say that we have more than that to worry about. But much as I loved this elderly hero, I couldn’t disagree more. What’s the answer, then, if doing something and doing nothing are both wrong? Please, please, don’t think I’m saying anyone should stop litter picking, or recycling, or cycling to work –these small actions definitely make our world an incredibly better place.
But the crisis goes deeper.
I joined Extinction Rebellion because I’d followed the science since my geography teacher Miss Mackay told us about “the greenhouse effect” in the old Midmills Academy in the seventies.
As climate change grew more and more ominous, I wondered why nobody was shouting out about this existential nightmare charging towards us. XR was an eye-opener in its considered and careful research and strategy.No, we don’t glue ourselves to motorways! Yes,some of us practise targeted civil disobedience –but most of us just support marches and performance art, etc. We simply demand that governments around the world listen to the science and act now – how many pledges can 26 COPS make before we realise that words are cheap, as emissions go up and up?
As COP26 drew to a close I was not alone in my feelings of devastation, seeing warm words but few, and woefully too late, concrete targets. The bigger picture is this: climate change needs systemic change. Currently things are rigged (no pun intended) in favour of the fossil fuel industry, which according to the IMF, globally receives subsidies totalling a staggering $11million a minute.
Climate chaos is perpetuated in ways that amount to a crime against humanity. As Al Gore rather understatedly put it, this (and its accompanying greenwashing) is an inconvenient truth.
So was my taxi driver right? Are we really powerless in the face of looming disaster that’s already under way?
I can hear Mahatma Gandhi, the Suffragettes, and Martin Luther King whispering in my ear.
When enough ordinary people care enough to swell the ranks, politicians realise their votes might be affected. So I join the ranks. That’s my “one simple measure.”
I’m one small person, but increasingly, I’m one of many.
May there be many more.