'The government is trashing our children's future' - Norfolk doctor who spent 22 hours in custody for Extinction Rebellion protests
PUBLISHED: 11:13 24 April 2019
Archant Norfolk 2015
Fresh from camping out in Parliament Square as part of the Extinction Rebellion demonstration in London, Dr Hayley Pinto, from Marsham, describes why the planet is facing a climate emergency.
I was arrested and spent nearly 22 hours in custody, under bright lights, checked on every 30 minutes.
I'd spent the previous night trying (unsuccessfully) to sleep on tarmac at a roadblock in Parliament Square.
This was last week and marked the end of my time spending my leave with the Extinction Rebellion protests in London.
By the time I was released on Friday I was emotional and exhausted. I still have to face court.
Despite this, it was the best week I've had for years because it restored my faith in humanity and gave me hope after years of despair about the climate and ecological emergencies and the future I saw for all our children.
Why? Because I was privileged to spend it with the bravest, most passionate, joyful and caring people I've met and because the public response was almost universally supportive. Whilst we sat blocking the road, surrounded by police, people brought us blankets, hot tea, biscuits; people gave me thumbs up on the Tube and came over to say how brilliant the protests were and to ask more about it.
In Parliament Square, free of cars, people chatted and relaxed, kids played, cyclists zipped through; it was a taste of how our cities could be if they weren't choked with traffic jams.
Combined with the School Strikes and the David Attenborough documentary released last week, it seems the conversation is finally changing. Not before time.
To have even a 50/50 chance of avoiding the earth tipping in to an uncontrollable cycle of warming we've just 11 years to stop fossil fuel emissions at the current level.
Where else would we consider 50/50 as an acceptable level of risk? Yet these are the odds we're prepared to take with the only planet we have to live on.
For a better chance of survival we should aim to get emissions down faster. This might seem impossible but we're negotiating with physics not diplomats. There are no extensions or compromises. The good news is there are realistic blue prints for how to achieve it with existing technology. It will mean big changes in all areas of our lives. Transport and energy are actually the easier sectors.
We must also change how we eat (less meat and dairy), buy less pointless stuff, change how and where we build, how we farm, industry, and reduce flying to a minimum. We must do this quickly and bring the rest of the world with us. It's a daunting challenge. It will require investment, but will cost far less than trying to adapt to a world of water shortages, failing crops (the UK is particularly vulnerable to food shortages as we import 52pc of our food and already have 4m people using food banks), conflict, mass migration and super-storms.
More good news - the changes will improve our physical and mental health, reduce social, racial and gender inequality and bring our communities together with a shared purpose, reducing the social isolation suffered by so many. Britain has made some emissions reductions but we're not on target to meet the milestones for 80pc reduction by 2050 set in the Climate Change Act (a target no longer compliant with current science).
Our current government is pushing us further from any chance of success - green lighting a new coal mine, pushing fracking (trampling local democracy in the process), expanding Heathrow, blocking onshore wind, reducing solar subsidies (whilst continuing to subsidise the fossil fuel industry) and scrapping the low-carbon homes plan. Reviewing this list leads to the inescapable conclusion that they are more concerned with the interests of corporate lobbies than the population they were elected to serve. Their actions put at risk our health, homes, communities, businesses, food and water supplies. They are trashing our children's future.
Decades of scientific reports, protest marches, petitions have made no difference and it's too late to persuade one person at a time to make changes. This has to come from government.
That's why I see no alternative to civil disobedience in the tradition of other great social movements. This is a planetary emergency, and if there's no other way to wake people up to that then no matter how much time, energy and personal discomfort it takes, I will not shut up
It has been said “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men and women do nothing”. For anyone who feels the same, Extinction Rebellion meet every Thursday at 7pm at 62 Cannell Green, Norwich.