In the winter of 2018/19 I was feeling desperate. Every day I would commute by car, listening to the news. The dual carriageway in front of me was red with the taillights of cars ahead, and on the other side, the headlights of the heavy stream of traffic turned the road white. Every day the traffic seemed a little thicker. Most days, as I drove, the radio told another news story talking about the ice caps melting, or the previous month having been the hottest/wettest/driest/coldest in some part of the globe. The coral reefs were in trouble, the air quality in (some city) was dangerous, a new report had come out showing that a frightening proportion of some group of species was threatened with extinction. In the car, I would grip the wheel so hard my hands turned white. It was quite clear we were in an ecological crisis, why was no one making the connections? Why was no-one DOING anything? I felt like I was trapped in a box, and my rage and despair were bubbling up, hot and unstoppable, threatening to burst off the lid. But what could I do? I was furious, desperate, but ultimately alone.
Then one day there was a different news story on my homeward commute. In London, some people calling themselves Extinction Rebellion were blockading streets, calling for immediate urgent change. As soon as I got home I ran to the computer to read more. Who were these people? Could I conceivably get to London? How could I contact them? I racked my brains and thought of an acquaintance who was politically active. Could she put me in touch with this group? Did she know if there were any of these people in the Midlands?
Since I found Extinction Rebellion Derby group I have never looked back. Because the need for climate action is so great, and the timescale for averting catastrophe is so short, my life in the group has been a constant learning curve, doing things I had never dreamed I would do. I have organised a benefit gig, taken a coach trip of people to London, planned actions, led meetings and spoken at a rally. It has been challenging to fit this in with work and looking after my young children, but I have managed. My life has been transformed. I have started to believe I can make a difference – in my personal life, in addition to the environmental sphere. And as well as what I have learned to do, I have met an amazing group of people – open-hearted, enthusiastic, and absolutely committed to doing all they can to protect our planet (and our civilisation) from the calamity of climate change.
Lockdown has brought further changes. The focus of the group has changed – as well as continuing to campaign politically, we are spending a lot of time helping to keep our society running, joining in the community effort to look after the people who are most affected by the Coronavirus crisis. My new friends are shopping for the elderly, helping vulnerable adults cope with the crisis, and campaigning for more PPE for NHS and care workers, as well as continuing work on the climate and biodiversity catastrophe. I feel so proud to know them.
In the twelve months since I was listening in despair to the news, so much has changed. There is a much greater awareness of the need for action, both in the population and in the media. The climate and biodiversity situations are still as grave as they could possibly be. But now I have hope. Involved in working for positive change, surrounded by the support of like-minded people, I see a transformation happening in our society, and around the globe. There is great hope to be won from the vast outpouring of goodwill and energy form the whole community around us, in response to the COVID crisis. If we can do so much, so quickly, for COVID, what could we not do for climate change?! The changes are happening now, too slow, still, but the ball HAS started rolling. And there really is no choice but to keep pushing and pushing for further change, for our own sakes and the sakes of our children.
This time last year I felt trapped in a box. Now, even in lockdown, I feel so much more free. My life has changed completely, through the new things I have done and the new people I have met. I feel larger. I am NEVER going back in that box.
Previously published in IWD mag, but updated by Kay
Image shows Kay doing another rebel’s make up for a protest against banks funding fossil fuels to an extreme amount.
What’s your story?
Extinction Rebellion wouldn’t exist without the passion, energy and generosity of all of you. All of your contributions are part of a united global effort to create a safe and harmonious future for all life on Earth (except certain viruses!)
Would you like to share your story to be published on our website, newsletter and social media. You can be anonymous or share only your first name. If you’re comfortable with sharing a photo, that would be amazing. Bonus points if it’s a photo of you at an XR action or event!
Here’s some prompts. Other prompt ideas are welcome! Or feel free to ignore these and write your personal story however you like!
- Tell us a little bit about your self
- Why did you join Extinction Rebellion?
- What is one of your most memorable moment in XR?
- What are your hopes for the future?
- Where do you think environmental activists should be focusing their efforts during and after the COVID19 crisis?
Just email us with your story and the Media & Messaging Circle will do the rest.