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A proud night in a prison cell for climate change emergency

Sitting peacefully on the ground in Trafalgar Square, I was arrested on Monday 7 October for alleged obstruction of the highway. I was there as a part of the Extinction Rebellion (ER) protests taking place in London and dozens of other cities around the world. 

The police had given me multiple opportunities to move, but I chose to stay and therefore to be arrested. I spent an uncomfortable night in a police cell and was released without interview, charge or caution some 13 hours later.

So why would the manager of a WEEE compliance scheme, a person deeply committed to compliance, take such a step?

In one simple sentence, David Attenborough captured the awful truth of the climate emergency “The scientific evidence is that, if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies.”

The climate emergency is a clear and present danger to our own society. That could arise from mass migration, food riots, flooding, fires and more. And although many of us have tried to reduce our carbon footprints, carbon emissions continue to rise. The Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 but that, as yet, has had no detectable impact on emissions.

So we need to act, and quickly. Really quickly. The dramatic action that Attenborough refers to involves radical changes to the way we produce energy. Unfortunately, politicians are nervous about taking the difficult decisions that are needed. They always have an eye to the next election, which makes difficult decisions much harder.

That is what has driven ER to operate in the way it does. Drawing on the experience of movements such as the US civil rights movement, Indian independence and others, they use peaceful civil disobedience as a way to push for change. All other conventional methods such as writing to MPs or signing petitions have failed, so the urgency makes this radical approach necessary.

And that is why I did what I did – and then publicised it. To raise awareness of the problem and to encourage others to demand those dramatic actions on which we depend.

Nigel Harvey is chief executive of Recolight

 

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