Transcription by Joanna XR I’ve just been on a train for about –
it feels like a day. So I’m bit sort of hazy,
because it got delayed for about an hour or so. But I’m extremely pleased to be here,
because it’s really sunny and just the sea – it’s amazing. And I’ve been stuck in this office all week at global maximum temperatures for London of 38 degrees. So it’s really nice to be here,
thank you very much for inviting me. Just in case it’s not clear, my name is Roger Hallam,
I helped set up Extinction Rebellion. I was in the cafe,
the famous cafe last April with 15 weird people who decided to declare rebellion
against the British government for criminal inactivity on the climate crisis. Extinction Rebellion doesn’t really have
official spokespeople. I’m mainly talking,
or I am talking, on my own behalf. What I’m going to say is my interpretation
of what Extinction Rebellion is doing. Obviously it’s agreed by a lot of other people,
but at the end of the day it’s my view. So if you don’t like it, that’s cool.
You can complain. Alright that’s all my disclaimer,
because if you’re not already aware,
Extinction Rebellion says a few anti-social things. Just in case you don’t know me,
I’ve been an organic farmer,
I grow organic vegetables in West Wales. I’ve been doing that for 20 years. I’ve done five years of research
on how to cause trouble effectively, as the joke goes, at Kings College
on civil disobedience and what-have-you, and I’ve been involved in the strategic design
of the civil disobedience campaigns. And life has changed sort of dramatically.
Last year I was sort of weeding spinach in one of my poly tunnels
and my partner came in and said that Bernie Sanders just shared the October rebellion on his Facebook page with 7 1/2 million viewers,
and I thought I shouldn’t be weeding spinach anymore, I should be getting on with the rebellion. So I delegated my business and since then I’ve been working 12 or 14 hour days, seven days a week, sort of trying to organize
our last chance to save ourselves. I feel like I’ve gone from sort of a reasonably quiet
– you know what it’s like, West Cornwall, West Wales, same sort of place, no-one’s really bothered about you. A sort of highlight of the week is
going to the local town and buying some hummus, and the rest of the time just staring at the soil. So I’ve gone from that
to this sort of movie world that I’m in, and every day I have to sort of pinch myself
because these weird and wonderful things happen. So I’m going to give you a little flavour of what it’s like
to be in Extinction Rebellion head office, as it were. We’re not supposed to call it that but it is,
and so here goes. So last week there was a rich guy from California
who phoned up and wanted to speak to me. I was told he was very rich,
so I was a little bit nervous, and I was thinking I had to be quite slick, as it were. So I got on the online Zoom call with him
and he wasn’t slick at all. I’d say he was in a bit of a panic and,
he was very distressed, there’s no two ways about it. The reason is because his house had burnt
down in California, and he lives near Los Angeles. And in one of the many forest fires his house had gone, the houses of his mates had been burnt down. All these rich people lost their houses,
and he said to me: Roger, whatever it takes, wherever it takes. And yes we’re raising millions of pounds
for climate change civil disobedience, so that’s a bit interesting.
I wasn’t expecting that. And then like a week beforehand there was this guy
who phoned up Extinction Rebellion, phoned up the woman who works next to me,
and he said he’s from COP. I don’t know if you’ve heard about this COP thing, but it’s where all these important people around the world that are supposed to sort out climate change get together every year and decide
to do nothing about climate change. You’re familiar with that? And every year
they sort of say they are, but they don’t. And so I was expecting her to say
that they wanted someone from Extinction Rebellion to go
and talk at this COP thing in Chile so that
the conventional climate change industry can look a little bit more sexy or whatever,
they quite like Extinction Rebellion turning up to things. Anyway, it turns out he doesn’t want that.
It turned out that he wants us “to cause chaos at COP”! This is one of these top diplomats
running the show who wants us to close down the event he’s going to organize. So if anyone wants to fly to Chile… Maybe you shouldn’t, but anyway.
Okay so that’s another sign of the times. And then a few weeks ago, a month or two ago actually, this BBC journalist phones Extinction Rebellion up and I don’t know who it is,
so don’t ask, but apparently he’s on telly every night or every other night
or whatever these people do and and he’s ringing up to give us advice
on how to effectively blockade Parliament. So as the Chinese saying goes,
we live in interesting times. I’m sure there’s a lot of us in this audience
that have been faffing around for 30 years trying to create a semi-decent society
and what-have-you. It’s like nothing before, right?
It’s completely changed. And every week
brings in these never-happened-before happenings. And I’d like to suggest to you, in case it’s not obvious,
that all around the world, and I mean literally all around the world,
people are starting to have what can only be described as a nervous breakdown about the climate crisis. Or to put it more bluntly, people are shitting themselves. And this is an exponentially increasing
situation. I was just joking to someone when I came in, that I did a talk in
Shrewsbury, I think it was about a year ago, and I was like half an hour late,
like I thought I was going to be late for this meeting. Well there’s only six people there right,
so it didn’t really matter. So here you are, and there’s however many of you,
and I would predict that maybe in 1 or 2 years time it will be like 10,000 people in Penzance
because that’s the way it’s going. You can look upon that
as a good thing or a bad thing but … So what I’m going to do,
which might not sound a great idea but I am actually going to tell you about the climate crisis and I’m sure a lot of you are quite self-congratulatory that you’re here because you’ve read it and you believe in it and we’re all ready to go. Well, one of the things
I’ve sort of realized over the last year is that you can know about climate change,
you know people say that all the time don’t they? They say: Oh yeah, I know what’s happening. But the fact of the matter is, you can know about it,
but you don’t really know about it. And when you really know about it,
you haven’t really felt it. And when you think you’ve felt it,
you haven’t really felt it, right? So it’s a bit like grief, you know.
It comes in waves, you’re shitting yourself one day and then the next two weeks,
you sort of forget about it, the sun’s shining and there’s plenty of food in Tesco’s.
It’s like it has been for the last 30 years. And then you read a Guardian article
and you’re going what the fuck?! And then you forget about it again and then someone comes in and they’re crying, or
something goes bang! And you know, it’s like that, right? So I am going to tell you
about the climate situation and the ecological crisis, not because you don’t know,
but just to put us in this space where we can hopefully connect with the
enormous, beyond-belief challenge that we’ve now got, because otherwise
we’re just going to be pretending, like we’ve been pretending for the last 30 years.
We’ve all been pretending, haven’t we? I’ve been pretending. You know,
ten years ago I knew the whole situation was fucked but I was just there weeding my spinach, thinking someone else is going to get it on with it for me We’ve all been there right? Okay, so here’s a way of looking at it.
As I see it, one of the big lies, the many lies about climate change,
but one of the biggest lies is it’s really complicated. And it’s so complicated,
you have to leave it up to these COP people and the scientists and
the politicians and the experts because the poor common people
can’t work stuff out for themselves and it’s just this science thing right.
But the fact of the matter is, it’s not that complicated right?
It’s simply not that complicated. Some bits have got complicated but a lot of it isn’t. It’s a little bit like going to the doctor
and you’ve got something wrong with your foot, and there’s something complicated with your arm and every now and again you get these complicated headaches, but you’ve also got lung cancer. It’s like does it matter that
you can’t work out what the headaches are about, you’ve got lung cancer. That’s
the killer fact right? That’s what’s going to kill you. It’s the same with the climate crisis you know,
there’s all these fiddly bits but there’s some killer facts.
So I’m going to go briefly through three killer facts. Okay so the first one is the undeniable clear simple fact that the Arctic is melting. There’s this stuff called ice, it’s warm, it melts. You don’t have to have a degree in science to work that one out. The fact of the matter is 75% of the volume of the ice
in the Arctic Ocean has melted in the last 30 years. So not 2%, not 10%. If it was 10% that would be a massive crisis. No, 75% has melted already. It’s a catastrophe. There was a Harvard professor
two or three weeks ago who said that by 2022 in the summer
there’ll be no permanent ice left in the Arctic. He said it was absolutely certain
there’d be no permanent ice left in the Arctic. This is a Harvard professor
presumably knows what he’s going on about Happens to be the guy that
discovered the hole in the ozone layer in the 1990s. No ice is going to be left, no permanent ice. You don’t need to be a Harvard professor to work that one out, you can just be a teenage science student. You look at that graph,
it’s going down, it’s going down, it’s going to hit zero. Maybe this year, maybe next year,
maybe in the next five years. It’s going to be happening.
And this is simple absolute scientific law that says once you’ve removed the ice from dark water
you have this thing called a latent heat effect, which means that
you dramatically increase the temperature. And as you may know, there’s this thing called
the Gulf Stream which is being disrupted because the difference in temperature
between the Arctic and the equator is becoming less so it’s slowing down,
it’s creating what’s called weather blocks. We can talk about this a little bit more,
but once that ice is gone it’s going to be completely chaotic. In the next 10 years, this is what’s coming down the road. It’s not complicated. So if you’re a good scientist,
and I’m sure there are some scientists here, you know that if you look at a phenomenon,
you should look at it at 2 or 3 directions right? Just to be on the safe side.
So let’s look at it in terms of temperature. I’m sure you know that since pre-industrial times,
the average global temperature has increased around 1.1 degree centigrade.
Some people think it’s a bit more, some people think it’s a bit less,
but it’s in that ballpark. And there’s this thing called
the Paris climate agreement right, which I will suggest to you is the biggest example
of a mass delusion in the history of humanity because it has this lie that we’ve got to stay
below 2 degrees centigrade. The simple scientific fact of the matter is:
2 degrees centigrade is already locked in. I spend a lot of my time in academia.
It’s well known in academia that it’s bollocks. I’ll give you three simple reasons.
There’s this thing called the carbon lag. When you put carbon into the atmosphere,
it doesn’t immediately heat up the earth. It takes ten to thirty years for it to translate
into higher temperatures. It’s not complicated. It’s coming down the tubes, so even if we stopped putting carbon into the atmosphere tomorrow, you’d still have
the last 10 to 20 years of carbon coming through. So a recent scientific
peer-reviewed paper suggested that that’s 0.7. So there’s .7 of a degree still to come through,
even if everything stopped tomorrow. So that’s what? 1.1, plus 0.7, 1.8 is that right? And then there’s this thing called global dimming. A 2005 peer-reviewed paper. It’s not complicated.
The fossil fuels that the world’s industries are putting up into the atmosphere,
the pollution basically shades the sun’s rays and stops the earth from heating. So once we’ve got rid of the fossil fuels, the pollution will go, the sun’s rays will come through and the estimate is it will increase
global average temperatures by up to 0.7. So that’s 1.9 plus 0.7, 2.6 right? And did anyone see that slightly inconvenient article that came out last week? That it’s now established, that the carbon that’s in the soil will increase global temperatures by another degree by 2050, because when you heat up the earth you heat up the soil and it releases more carbon. Well established,
straightforward, that takes us over three. So even if those three things were a little bit wobbly, we’re massively over two. That’s before we factor in humans! And if you haven’t noticed, carbon emissions are still going up: 1.6 two years ago, 2.7 last year. So it’s already locked in two degrees centigrade. That’s four degrees centigrade in the middle of continents. At four degrees centigrade in the middle of continents you can’t grow grains at scale reliably. That means one thing… starvation. So let’s look at it a third way, just in case we’re not totally persuaded. In pre-industrial times, it was 280 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. It’s been going up exponentially for the last 200 years. One part per million going up,
two parts per million… When I started telling people about the climate crisis,
I felt a little bit embarassed by saying that it’s soon going to be three parts
per million because it’s going up exponentially. Several weeks ago the data came in,
last year it went up by 3.5 parts per million. Up to 415 parts per million. It wasn’t so long ago
when people were saying 350 was the limit. We’re on 415! So let’s do some maths. 10 times 3.5 is 35, plus 415, I make that 450.
450 is 2 degrees centigrade locked in. Within 10 years. And maybe it’s going to be
5 to 8 years, because it’s exponential right? So we’ve been lied to. But that’s not the real bad news is it?
The real bad news is we’re facing social collapse. That’s the other big lie,
that this is something to do with the Arctic, something to do with polar bears,
something to do with the Amazon. No. What it’s to do with is the collapse of this country. So David Attenborough and that COP thing…
Remember what he said? The end of civilization. We’re facing the end of civilization. But one thing I can tell you tonight is David Attenborough will not be doing a film on the BBC about the end of civilization, because that wouldn’t be too nice, would it?
But there are plenty of academics that study the end of civilization.
The modern word for it is social collapse. If you want to know what social collapse looks like, check out Somalia, check out Afghanistan. Social collapse starts like this. Economic crisis that could come
when the carbon price collapses, when the asset bubble of
global coastal properties bursts, It’s coming. What does that mean? The academic word for it is the fiscal crisis of the state. That means the state runs out of money.
It sounds quite academic, a bit abstract. What it means is,
you don’t get your welfare payments. That’s what the climate crisis means.
There’s no support for the poor. Then it means the schools won’t be able to run. Then it means
the university courses are going to close. Then it means,
when you take your parents to the hospital there aren’t going to be the beds.
That’s how social collapse starts. And then we’ve got the food, haven’t we?
What happens when we run out of food? Last year there were no courgettes
in the shops in February. Does anyone remember that?
And everyone was having a little bit of a joke. I didn’t think it was funny because I grow food and I know what it means.
I know what it means when there’s snow storms in southern Spain.
It means something’s coming down the line. And what came down the line happened last year.
For the first time, there were food growing crises across the Northern
Hemisphere. 20% down in North America, Europe and Russia, all in one year.
And a sustainability professor, 30 years in the trade, he said if that happens three years running there’ll be mass starvation in Europe
– in three years! He’s written a paper about it,
it’s been downloaded 450,000 times –
the most downloaded academic paper in history. Why? Because people are fed up
about being lied to. Everyone’s starting to wake up
and wants to know what’s actually going on. About 15 years ago,
I planted out all my crops, 20 acres of crops. It started raining on the 2nd of June, it rained every day
for 7 weeks. I lost every single outdoor vegetable. I lost a hundred thousand pounds. 20 people lost their jobs,
I was out of my head with stress, but no one cares. Who cares because if you can’t get
your food from West Wales, you can fly it in. And then the following year,
it rained almost the 7 weeks again. And then we had the warmest April,
then we had the dullest August, then we had the coldest winter on record,
minus 15 for a fortnight. I lost 30,000 leeks, every single leek and then last year it was
the warmest summer on record in Wales, but it didn’t matter.
Do you know why it didn’t matter? Because I don’t grow food anymore.
I don’t grow food outside because I can’t afford it. I can’t afford the risk.
There used to be 20 horticulturalists in West Wales, now there’s 4.
I spoke to one of my mates, he said I’m packing up. It would be better for me to go to Swansea Casino
and put my 40 grand down. Because he doesn’t know what’s going to happen and there’s literally hundreds of millions of farmers around the world shitting themselves every year now because they don’t know what’s going to happen
and if you grow food for a living the worst thing is not knowing what’s going to happen, because you don’t know what to do. It’s a casino right?
So we knew this 10 or 15 years ago. So that’s the food.
But the real end point here is war. What do you think is going to happen when hundreds of millions of refugees are fleeing from the tropics? There’s going to be war and
we haven’t had war here since the 1940s, not a big war. But it’s coming back.
So my suggestion to you is when you’re talking to the good people of Penzance and West Cornwall, don’t talk about the polar bears. Talk about social collapse,
talk about the welfare payments, talk about the food in Tesco’s not being there, and talk about their kids
being sent off to be slaughtered, because that’s what the climate crisis means, long before London and the global cities
are flooded with water which is now locked in. So the last thing I want to say about
this, and this is the crucial thing. This is absolutely real, it’s every week isn’t it? When I started doing these talks, I was going,
it was 46 degrees in France
and everyone nods their head, 46 degrees. But last week
it was 42 degrees in Germany, a world record. This Thursday it was 38 degrees in London,
the hottest London day on record. What’s going on?
What’s going on is, it’s absolutely real. It was 53 degrees in Karachi last year.
Several hundred people died from heatstroke. No one really cares because it’s Karachi, no one knows, but we had this idea that when it gets to 55,
there might be a few hundred more people
dying from heat stroke. 57 a few more… no that’s not correct,
there’s this thing called nonlinear dynamics in social and economic systems.
What that means is, there’ll be a few hundred people dying from heat stroke
and it goes up a little bit more and it’ll be a thousand or two, goes up a little bit more and three million people will die in a few days, because of this thing called a wet bulb effect. Just look it up if you don’t know about it. At a certain point the human body cannot survive heat and humidity and it dies in six hours. It’s nonlinear. It’s like hypothermia, you get cold, you get colder,
and then you die and then you’re not coming back. This is already
happening in the animal kingdom. Two or three years ago on the Russian
steppe 200,000 deer died in three days. They had this bacteria in the nose, it got
above a temperature they’ve never known before, the bacteria moved to their brains
and it destroyed them. This is non-linearity. This is the fundamental reason why there aren’t 10,000 people in this room tonight, okay? It’s because we think it’s going to be
38, 39, 40, you know, and it’s just going to carry on. But at a certain point, it’s bang!
Mass death, social collapse. In the last few weeks, I’ve talked to some of
the leading political economists around the world. They all know what’s coming
and they’re all of one mind about the matter. When it comes it’s going to be fast
– a few days, a few weeks. Because everything is connected. So yes, we all know about the climate crisis right? And we can feel it as well. So I’m not going to spend the rest of the talk
talking about that, because I’m going to talk to you, dare I say it,
about something more difficult. And the more difficult thing is
knowing there’s something we can do about it. That’s the difficult thing
and what I’m going to talk to you about is the thing that tells you
there’s something you can do about it, and that’s the social science. Because one of the nice things about knowing about the natural science, the climate science, is you can be really clear that it’s true. And as I said it’s nice to be sort of self-congratulatory about it and talk to everyone and say, that nasty Mr Trump, those nasty Republicans,
they don’t understand the science, aren’t we better than them?
But the real challenge is are you ready to accept the social science? Because the social science has killer facts as well. When Martin Luther King organized
the civil rights movement in the 1960s there was a bit of a joke
that he only had two books to go on – the autobiography of Gandhi and the Bible. But over the last three decades
there has been thirty years of research in how to effectively change a society in a radical way. Systematic social science. And one of the world’s leading scholars,
Erica Chenoweth, came to London a few months ago to talk about
how this has been done dozens and dozens of times with clear causal factors.
And she said to us, we no longer have any excuses. We don’t have to make this stuff up,
we don’t need to read the Old Testament, though it might help. So for what it’s worth,
I’m an award-winning researcher at King’s College. Well, what I’m going to tell you over the next half hour
is 101 social science, okay? It’s the killer facts stuff. Again, there’s loads of complicated bits and pieces, there’s long tails and there’s outliers and all the rest of the pallava right? But there are some fundamental things. And a fundamental thing that’s come out
of the social science is if you want to rapidly change the political direction
of a society in the shortest amount of time,
there’s one way to do it, and that way is mass participation civil disobedience.
Period. Now we all know, don’t we, that we’ve been trying very very hard to sort out
the climate crisis for 30, 40 years. I’m sure there’s people in this audience
have been at it, doing all that great stuff. I’ve been doing it. I’ve done the
permaculture, I’ve done the courses, I’ve gone on the retreats, I’ve done the
emailing, I’ve gone on the marches, I’ve lobbied my MP,
three pounds to Friends of the Earth… Fantastic stuff and it’s got us nowhere. Since 1990
there has been a 60% increase in carbon emissions, from the point at which
the scientists told us all what I’ve just told you. It was already settled in 1990 right? So for 30 years we’ve been doing all this great stuff, and everyone’s been fantastic, and I don’t mean to be at all disrespectful,
but the fact of the matter is it’s been a catastrophic failure. Half the carbon emissions that have ever
been put into the atmosphere by the human race have happened since Al Gore’s
Inconvenient Truth came out. Think about that. Catastrophic failure. So that’s the
starting point of thinking about what really works. And what really works is
what we haven’t been doing. And what we haven’t been doing is causing a fuss, okay? Now just to let you know,
I don’t like causing a fuss, all right? I had a very overbearing mother and the last thing I
like to do is upset people just for the record. Just don’t think I’m some sort of mad radical, you know hate everyone and
want to cause you know, blah blah blah… I’m just telling you the facts here
and I find this stuff as difficult you. When I first went on my first
road block my legs were shaking. So it’s not about me, it’s not about my
personality, it’s not about some ideology. It’s about the facts. Civil disobedience works, and the reason it works is because of two things. The first thing is disruption. No one takes any notice of you
unless you cause disruption. When the workers go to an employer and say we want to have a wage increase, everyone knows what happens don’t we? No. When the workers combine together and stop working, and go on strike
causing disruption to that company, everyone knows what could happen, and
often does happen. The accountant comes in tells the boss they’re losing too much money, the boss calls in the Union and the Union does a deal and gets that
wage increase, right? It’s been going on since 1880. It doesn’t always work, but what
we do know is being nice doesn’t work. It’s just the way it is. Disruption
increases the costs, the economic costs, the reputational costs of the opponent.
Disruption creates attention, and attention is the first point at
which people start to change their opinions. You get the eyeballs, right? In 2003, a million people, I’m sure many of us know, went down to London to protest about the Iraq war.
Everyone waved the banners, everyone thought it was great,
everyone got on the bus came home, what happened? Nothing, because a march never
causes disruption. It’s there and it’s gone. Great idea but it doesn’t work. The other reason why civil disobedience works is because of sacrifice.
You won’t be getting emails
from Friends of the Earth about sacrifice. No one likes to talk about it. The fact of the matter is the only reason we’re sitting here today in this relatively free society is because of millions of people
sacrificing their liberty and ultimately their lives for our common good.
That’s the legacy they left us. The fact of the matter is
without suffering there’s no change. It’s a hard truth but it’s a fact and the reason for that is because when
you put yourself into a position where you’re going to get arrested, or go to
prison, or lose some of your material privileges, people take you seriously,
because you’re walking your talk. Because an action is worth a thousand words, because information never changes entrenched power. What changes people is
seeing people suffer for their beliefs. So I’d love tonight to give you
a nice happy clappy summary of Extinction Rebellion and how wonderful
we’ve been, and how great it is. There’s 150 of us in this room right, but it’s an emergency, isn’t it? I’ve got half an hour left and I’m going to spend that half an hour taking that emergency seriously and telling you how this works, why it works, and why if we want to maximize the possibilities that our children are not going to have a horrendous death this is what we need to do. And what I’m going to
suggest to you is this involves arrest, and it also involves going to prison. I’m going to do
about 10 of these talks, and I hate this bit of the talk because everyone’s
looking like, you know, it’s a nice pleasant talk and I suddenly come out with this taboo. But Extinction Rebellion, the slogan is tell the truth and act as if it’s real. Don’t tell the truth as long as people like you, don’t act as if it’s real as long as you don’t upset people. When we were in that cafe
we decided to call ourselves Extinction Rebellion. Everyone thought we were mad. You can’t mention extinction. You can’t mention rebellion. But we did it anyway, and we’ve got a hundred thousand people on the mailing list in a year. Why? Because people want to hear the truth. So there’s a plan as some of you may know
to fly toy drones at Heathrow. It’s going to be an independent action
because it’s controversial. But the fact of the matter is it’s going to be a hundred percent safe. It’s also going to be a hundred percent illegal. And it’s a good bet that if
people do that, they’ll end up in prison. There may be some other scenarios, I’m
not going to talk about specifics tonight. The fact of the matter is if you break the laws that enable the carbon corporate state to not function, then they are
going to put you in prison. And I’m going to show you why that’s
their Achilles heel. So I’m not going to give you loads of technical academic stuff. I’m going to tell you three stories
that highlight how this works. So, in 1931 was the salt march,
probably the most famous act
of mass civil disobedience in the 20th century. Gandhi set off in India with 78 volunteers, okay? That’s about half of the people in this room.
That’s not a hint. Sacrificial, era-busting civil
disobedience always starts off with very few people. That’s rule number one. Number two is everyone thinks you’re an idiot.
Congress thought it was a stupid idea. The political activists thought it was a stupid
idea, but Gandhi did it anyway. He set off with his 78 people, lots more people joined him on the march, he got to the coast and said to the British authorities I want to make salt, a reasonable demand you would have thought. No no no, you can’t make
salt at that time in India unless you pay a tax. The British said no, you’re not
going to. Gandhi said yes we are. Confrontation. To cut a long story
short, the British military police lined up in a line, Gandhi’s followers walk towards the military police to get to the sand and the coast. They were calm, they were civil. They were plainly dressed, totally
nonviolent. They walked up to the military police, the military police got
out their truncheons and split open their heads. There was blood everywhere, the
photographs went round the world, the film footage went round the world,
there was a massive international scandal, and that was the moment when the veneer of
British superiority in India cracked and vanished forever. The historians will tell you that was the moment,
that was the tipping point when the British lost control.
It took another 10-15 years to get independence, but after that the Indians
had had enough because they saw what the reality of the British occupation was. In other words the implicit violence was made explicit for the whole world to see. 60,000 Indians went to prison in the following months. India’s a big place So let’s look at the civil rights
movement in the States, another example of what people do when they get serious about what they believe in. The Freedom Riders campaign – 25 students started this off. That’s about quarter of the people in this room. 25 students! Not many – rule number one. They suggested they were going to do something innocent. Notice, it’s not a big deal, right? Making salt, it’s not a big deal; riding on a bus, a black and white person sitting together, it’s not a big deal right?
But it happens to be totally illegal. So they were going to go down
from Washington DC into the deep south, the civil rights movement on the phone
saying, don’t do it it’s stupid, it’s reckless, it’ll split the movement.
Sound familiar? Martin Luther King was on the phone, don’t do it!
They did it anyway. They set off down to Atlanta. They were surrounded by the Ku Klux Klan,
the Klu Klux Klan set fire to the coach. They dragged the students out and they beat
them up. What happened next? Another 25 students got on the bus and
came down south. They were holed up in a coach station
surrounded by a mob. It was touch and go
whether they were going to die or not. It was on all the front pages of the national press. That’s what happens when you draw
the violence out for all to see. The president notices. There he was, President Kennedy, at his breakfast table with it all over the front page.
He sends down his special representative to sort it out.
The racists beat him up. Not a good move. Hundreds more people start coming down on the
coaches to get to Mississippi. When they get to Mississippi they put them in
prison. They put them in prison, hard labour. At the end of the summer there’s
five hundred people from all walks of life, doing hard labor in Mississippi.
The federal government cracks. That autumn they bring in
major legislation to desegregate. For the first time in 70 years! 70 years of conventional
campaigning. Does that sound familiar? Three months of civil disobedience,
a structural change. Disruption. Sacrifice. Let’s look at the Children’s March, 1963,
Birmingham, Alabama. Martin Luther King can’t get people to go to prison. This DJ comes up to him and says
I’ll get people into prison for you. What he doesn’t tell
Martin Luther King is it’s the kids. If you know some Fridays for a Future people,
maybe some of you are here, then watch the children’s March on YouTube.
It’s a little bit different. It had a radio station, you had this thing called D-Day,
all the kids are going to come out. D-Day happens, all the kids come into the back
of the central Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama. The DJ guy is getting them to come out,
they come out singing, marching. The police are there.
The police have requisitioned coaches. Fifty kids at a time going to the coach,
off to prison. All they were doing is an innocent thing right?
Walking along the road in Birmingham Alabama. No, that’s totally illegal. And the next fifty kids come out, they’re into their coaches. They’re into prison. The next fifty kids come out. After the first day there’s a thousand young people in prison. A thousand! What happens on the second day? Thousands more kids come down to Birmingham. Three thousand kids in prison at the end of the second day. It keeps going day after day for seven or eight days. What happens after seven or eight days? The authorities give in. The Chief of
Police goes on telly and he says the fear has gone. The kids are in prison
singing songs, having a party. The fear has gone. When the fear goes radical
political change happens. We’re all here in this room, aren’t we,
with that fear in us. Radical political change goes when you don’t fear. So I’m sure you’re thinking, as we all
like to think, this is something you see on YouTube, something you see on Netflix, on telly. It’s these amazing things, it’s the movie
that we haven’t been in all our life. It’s something that happened
somewhere else, happened in the 20th century, we don’t need to worry about that anymore. So in case you think this is just some
sort of weird thing that doesn’t happen anymore, I’m gonna give you two more examples. I’ve been at King’s College and I’m quite famous at King’s College for being
the only student that’s been suspended twice. All the security guards know who I am. Two years ago I went up to the fossil
fuel group, the fossil fuel divestment group. There are thousands of these groups
around the world trying to get divestment, we’re all familiar with this.
I said to them how are you getting on guys? They said well we’ve been doing this
for four years, we’ve done the petition, we’ve joined the committees, we’ve got a
meeting with the Vice Principal, we had a rally… Sound familiar?
I said what have you achieved? Well they said, we’ve got something on
tar sands. So I checked it out. Kings College have done a 10-year
corporate plan to make the world a better place. It was very original. Turns out that they’re going to divest from tar sands
by 2029 if it makes economic sense. Familiar with that one? Turns out the tar
sands are 2% of Kings College fossil fuel investments. Not that great. So I said to them okay so why don’t you do a bit of direct action? They said: Oh no, we don’t want to do that because we’re going to upset people.
We’re on the committees, we’ve got the relationship with the Vice-Principal,
we’re trying to make progress. You’ve heard this one?
When you go to Penzance County Council or whatever it is… We don’t want to upset people.
We need to talk about this. The most ineffectual way to bring about change is
not to upset people. That’s just the way it is. So I said, right I’m going to do a little
shaboodle, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do. Start it off with me
and one other student. That’s me and one of you. That’s not a lot. We had this bright idea of putting spray chalk around the walls of King’s College. We weren’t quite sure what we were doing. It was like dots, it was supposed to be
“Connected the dots”, it was a bit stupid. Never think that when you do a direct action
campaign you need to know what you’re doing. You don’t, you just need to do it.
You’ll work it out as it goes along. So we were caught, we were going to be
disciplined. In January I sprayed chalk on the front of King’s College. Eight
students came to me and said this is cool, we want to do some of this. I said
that’s great, we’re going to spray chalk the Gothic Central Hall of King’s
College, all that colonial stuff. So I had this military operation, two of us from
four directions, with our spray chalk all shitting ourselves. We went into the central
hall, a big Gothic Hall. Five minutes later we’d completely plastered it all with
spray chalk. We had all these slogans, the slogans didn’t make any sense because everyone was too nervous to get the words in the right order. It was a total mess.
The Vice Principal was down in five minutes. Five minutes it took him. He came up to me and he said Roger this sort of thing
shuts down the conversation. I said to him, it’s the first time
I’ve had a conversation with you. That’s what you call a dynamite response. Remember that one when you do something to the leader of the local council. The following day I was
suspended from King’s College. I was banned from entering King’s College property. What did I do? I entered King’s College property.
They dragged me out. I didn’t blink. After 10 days they blinked. They let me back in. They had a little word
with their public relations department, and decided suspending a student for civil disobedience on climate change
wasn’t going to do much for their image. I worked that one out. I sat down with him and I said
I’m going to go on hunger strike. I want you
to totally divest from fossil fuels. He went to see the investment committee,
they had an emergency investment committee meeting. When you go to the council and they say,
sorry we’re not meeting until September, that’s not a law of physics, it’s a social convention. When the shit the hits the fan, when there’s an
emergency, people meet. They make a phone call.
They had two emergency investment meetings. The vice principal went to them and said we’ve got these mad guys on hunger strike, get a move on. After 14 days – phew – they decided to sign
a piece of paper in front of the press committing to entirely divest from
fossil fuels by 2022. Everyone shook hands. Everyone’s friends. A five-week campaign.
Five weeks compared with four years. What was the causal factor?
The willingness to sacrifice. So let’s have a look at April. Extinction Rebellion. Don’t you if you were involved in November .
We were going to block roads in London loads of people were phoning me up saying Roger, this is really anti-social.
Roger you’re going to put the public off. You’re going to piss off the police.
You might even get arrested for God’s sake! But we did it anyway because Extinction Rebellion is based on the social science that enables us to make predictions. This April there was 1200 arrests
in London in eight days. It was
the biggest civil disobedience event in British history. Fifteen hundred arrests with the suffragettes over ten years, if you want to know. That was by design right, and sitting in London in five hour meetings
trying to work out how we’re going to do this. We worked out if we just occupied
one side in London the police would let us do it, because they hate arresting people,
it costs them money. But if you had four or five sites you get over that
criticality point when they’d have to arrest people. And it happened. And what happened? Beforehand hardly anyone in the UK
had even a heard of the climate emergency. Afterwards 67% of the British population agrees
there’s a climate emergency. The Labour Party, bless them, 400 Prime Minister question times and
not one single mention of climate change. They suddenly discover the climate emergency. Emergency debate, Parliament says there’s a climate emergency. What’s the causal factor? 30 years of sending petitions,
no, eight days of arrests. It’s just the way it is. In the three weeks after those arrests,
Extinction Rebellion signs up 50,000 people, half a million pounds of donations come in. Billionaires start phoning up. It hasn’t stopped.
What’s the causal factor? Not a one day march in London. If we want to sort
this situation out we know what to do: disruption and sacrifice. So why do people do it? The fact of the matter is
people choose to get arrested and go to prison and all the rest of it
for a whole wide range of reasons. So I want to go through three of those just
to give you a little example of what’s going through people’s minds
around the country at the moment and what’s been going through those minds of people in
those civil disobedience struggles I’ve just talked to you about. What is it that
makes people put themselves in harm’s way? The first reason is very simple:
people are simply terrified. It’s simple as that. You just heard the
catastrophic horror of what’s coming down the road. And the penny drops. And the penny drops when people realize they’re gonna get
hurt anyway. They’re going to lose their careers anyway. Their children are going to suffer anyway. So it’s not like hey, put yourself in harm’s way, get arrested, go to prison or what have you, or carry on as normal with your career, with your nice family life, with your smallholding, thinking it’s all going to carry on. No. It’s not going to carry on, it’s going to go anyway, so you might as well put yourself in harm’s way. One of the girls on the Children’s March,
she gets interviewed and this interviewer says to her: Why are you going out and getting arrested? Why are you going to prison?
Why are youe putting yourself in harm’s way? And she just looks at the camera and she says,
we’re going to get hurt anyway. We’re going to get hurt anyway! So there’s no big deal. It’s coming down the road anyway. So the second reason – the second reason people
all around the country are going to be putting themselves in harm’s way in the
rebellion this October, possibly at Heathrow or other actions
is simply this: It’s an act of conscience. It’s a realization that I cannot NOT step forward. This is who I am. I can’t be myself and not act. I can’t be myself and pretend I don’t know what
needs to be done. Because I do know what needs to be done. It’s a sense of civic
duty. Civic duty is something
that we’ve been told we should forget. Ever since Margaret Thatcher there’s just me, there’s my career, there’s my family,
there’s the money there’s the mortgage, there’s the quiet life,
work hard everything will be fine. That’s what we’ve been told.
But there’s another story… that we belong to a society, that we’re citizens and we have obligations as well as rights. And if we want to live in a society that is
semi-decent, sometimes you have to step up. I’m 53. I got involved in activism when I
was 14, in the peace movement in 1980s. I used to go to the Quaker meeting house
in Stockport. And people used to turn up, these guys used to turn up, they used to be 70, 75 years old. They used to have these nice little ties, immaculate jackets, perfect hair. These guys all look like Methodist ministers. They were conscientious objectors from World War II and I remember them saying to me: Roger, I will not kill. I will not kill. If I have to die, so be it, but I will not kill. And they had that look in their eyes, you know. And whatever you think about conscientious objection, that’s not the issue. The issue is that some people know what they’re about. They know where that red line is and
they will not go over that red line come what may. The third reason is… a sense of adventure! I’m sure you’re all thinking: Oh that Roger Allam,
he’s so moral and he must be a great guy. No, just for the record, I’m not.
You can ask my ex-partners. I’m just an average organic farmer
that’s shitting himself. The fact of the matter is a lot of people
that are stepping up to go to prison this autumn, to get arrested this autumn,
are as screwed up as the rest of you. You don’t need to go on five
personal growth courses to get yourself arrested. All you need is a little bit of a sense that life is short and this is going to be a bit different. And historically, a lot of people that step up,
do it because it’s an adventure. I mean that boring job…
you’ve only got another 30 years on this planet… What the fuck, let’s go down to London. I’m sure you’ve seen that film Schindler’s List.
You know, the Hollywood version? A great guy, saintly, saves loads of Jews. No. Schindler was a thief. Before the Second World War he was a thief. During the Second World War he had a bit of a sense of adventure and saved thousands of Jews. After the war he went back to being a thief. The fact of the matter is,
people that step up to do something like this are often more screwed up than the rest of us.
That’s why they step up. The old-fashioned word for this is redemption. You’ve messed up your life,
you haven’t done anything that great, at least
you can do something decent for a change. So don’t think you have to be a hero,
don’t think you have to be a saint, because you’re not.
You’re just normal people seeing something beyond bad coming down the road. Okay, so I come on to
the controversial part in the talk now. This bit always gets me in trouble. Let’s just look at this
little taboo… going to prison. My proposition to you is, in the wider
scheme of things going to prison is no big deal. No big deal.
I have a friend who’s a researcher, he researches trade unionists in Egypt.
He goes down to Egypt, he’s sitting in a room in Alexandria
with 15 trade unionists round in a circle. They’ve all got scars on their heads
because in Egypt if you go to prison you get tortured. So the good news is
you’re not going to get tortured in a British prison. Never say never of course. So let’s just keep that in mind. Let’s just concretise what we’re talking about here. Because one of the things about fear is… Oh my God,
I can’t get arrested! Oh my God, I can’t go to prison! It’s because you haven’t really actually thought about it. When you actually think about what it concretely means, like any other fear in your life, you go through it, and yeah it’s terrifying,
but at least you know what it is. And you start realising you can do it. It took me five years to decide to
do an MA at Swansea University, procrastinating. One day I just wrote down what it meant. You know, look on the internet, fill in the form, go to the interview, go in. It’s really not a big deal.
So let’s do it with the arrest thing. I’m sure some of you
have been arrested, so you know the routine. You’re sitting in the road,
a police person comes up to you, says you shouldn’t be sitting in the road.
You say you know. He says he’s going to arrest you.
You say that’s fine. He picks you up with four police people,
puts you in the van, takes you to the police station. You walk in, you go to a desk,
and you know what happens? You’ve got to fill in a form.
Sounds familiar? Then you go into a room, you have a nap. They let you out because they haven’t got enough cells for everyone else that’s coming through. You go back down to the bridge, you sit in the road, a police person comes up to you
says you shouldn’t be doing this. You say you know, says they’re going to arrest you.
Fair enough. They lift you up, put you in the van, take you to the police station, fill in the form, they let you out straight away because even more people are being arrested. One of the few plus sides of austerity is you get let out after two hours.
A silver lining if ever there as one. The Metropolitan police arrest three hundred people, then they have to start driving people down to Brighton. So let’s do the prison thing, okay? You’re sitting in the road, sounds familiar,
maybe you’re flying a drone at Heathrow… You’ve got your Argos drone – hundred
pounds for a toy drone. You’re flying it. You’ve got your picnic ready. A police person comes up to you and says you can’t fly a drone, because you’re within five
kilometres of Heathrow. You say you know, he says he’s going to arrest you, you say fair enough,
and you get carried into the van. You go into the police station, you go into a cell,
you go to a magistrate, he says don’t do it again, you come out,
someone gives you another toy drone from Argos, you go for a picnic,
you fly your drone, the police person comes up, says don’t do that,
you’re going to get arrested, you say fair enough, it goes overnight. You go to the magistrate,
the magistrate says you’ve done it twice, you can’t disturb the sacredness
of the fossil-fuel death machine and he puts you in prison on remand. So what does that mean? You go to a big building, you go in, you go up to a desk,
you know what happens? You fill in a form. But it’s more exciting,
because you have to fill in three forms! And then you’re put in a room, you change your clothes, they take you to your room, take you to a room, they close the door,
there’s a telly, there’s a bed, there’s a loo. They bring your food for you three times
a day. You know what it sounds like? A second-rate retreat center!
I’ve been to prison several times. I’m sitting down in my cell, I’ve got my books, I read my book and have a nap, I read my book a bit more. I have another nap, three naps a day!
Paradise. I’m an organic grower, I’m used to working
14 hours a day and having to look after the kids. It’s a holiday. You go out to this
playground area, you’re with your mates, you can swap your books,
it’s a bit like one of those East European spy films, you’re slipping books into each other’s pockets –
read this, it’s really good. It’s a book club! And all your mates have brought in all
those existentialist classics from the mid 19th century, which everyone
thinks are worthy, but are really boring. And after a week you get out.
You’ve spent a week for the first time in your life doing nothing apart from thinking about
how you can be a better person and having a nice rest. You come out super
enlightened, super calm, and you get surrounded by all these people that are
super stressed out because they’re trying to support you for being in prison, and you have to calm them all down. That’s going to prison.
So it’s no big deal. Except it could be… for all those people that
are just going to stand up afterwards and say: Yes, obviously something terrible could happen,
you could be traumatized, you could get beaten up. Terrible things can happen. It’s quite likely you’re going to be talking to someone who’s had a really shitty life and that can be scary and challenging. But that’s what sacrifice is, it’s not a free lunch. All I’m saying is,
it’s not quite as bad as the people that want to take your children to their deaths
want to make it out to be. This machine that we have to dismantle
wants you to be afraid, because that’s the primary reason why they’re going to be able to take us to our deaths. Elites have been doing this
all through history to get into power and they hold onto power and they have you go to your deaths
in order to stay in power. Apologies again, if you thought you were going to come to a nice Friends of the Earth-esque chat about climate. Extinction Rebellion is not about being popular. Extinction Rebellion is about doing what
is necessary to get the job done. That’s why I’ve gone down to London,
to get a job done. And when I talked to Robin, my mate in Bristol that I set up Extinction Rebellion with, he said Roger, we’re going to do this Time is Now tour. You can go to festivals and you can go here and you can go there. I said I don’t want to go to festivals. I don’t want to talk to people
that are pissed and on drugs, who want to be entertained and
feel good about being a little bit green. We’ve done that for 30 years. What I want to do is go and talk to real communities in real places, to real people who know what it’s like to
be ignored, to work hard, and for shitty things to happen to them.
Because those are people who are like me. And I have something to tell you guys,
in case you’re not totally aware of this already. It’s that all the people that are going to
sort out the climate crisis for you, are not. They haven’t done it for 30 years
and they’re not going to do it in the next 30 years. Since I went down to London
and became semi-famous I could just get phoned up
and go and see all these posh guys. I went to see the chief executive of Greenpeace
a year or so ago. I said to him we’ve got to do mass participation civil
disobedience. He said no, it’s abstract. People won’t mobilise. He was wrong. He’s the expert but he’s wrong. He’s slightly changed his tune since then, by the way. I went to the editor of The Guardian.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? I did a 20 minute spiel, you know, the one that has that abject fear that I can see in your eyes when I tell you. Do you know what she said after 20 minutes? She said: Thanks very much, Roger. It was like I had just given a quarterly financial report. Do you know what it had done?
Eight weeks later we got 40 minutes to talk about campaign reporting techniques at the Guardian. I didn’t talk about reporting techniques I talked about the editors going on hunger strike. But they’re not going to do it . And the reason all these
posh people aren’t going to do it is simple. It’s because they’ve got too much skin in the game. They don’t understand that you have to sacrifice. The editor of The Guardian isn’t going to go to prison. Sure they’re going to do
all those articles to tell you that you’re going to die.
But they’re not going to do anything about it. The only people that are going to do
something about this are you. And that’s not because I’m trying to be nice to you
or be a buddy or whatever. It’s a social scientific phenomenon that the people that engage in civil disobedience historically are usually ordinary people. It’s not going to be the rest of those
people in Penzance that aren’t here tonight. It’s not going to be the North London liberal elite. It’s going to be you guys. It’s going to be the guys in Camarthen.
It’s going to be the guys in Scunthorpe. It’s going to be the guys in Sunderland.
It’s going to be ordinary British people. Because that’s the only way anything ever did change.
That’s our heritage. The Chartists – the Suffragettes – the trade unionists – the civil right activists – they are ordinary people. So what I’ve told you tonight
basically means it’s not like you don’t know anymore. Okay? That’s my message to you. Obviously I have to say
that everyone has to make their own decision and everyone always has to make their own decision. But it’s not like you don’t know. And there’s a great quote from Mandela about fear and the quote is something like this: The greatest fear we have is not the fear of the powerful it’s the fear of our own power. It’s the fear that you could actually make a difference. So as I say hundreds of people around this country are committing to going to prison,
are committing to getting arrested this autumn. Thousands of people will be coming on the streets because they’ve no longer got any excuses. And my prediction is
that major change is going to be happening. Because the penny has dropped.
The fear has gone. And I was in a workshop two weeks ago and there’s this guy there, he’s 20 years old, a working-class lad from Leeds come down to London got a job didn’t know anything about climate change. One day this guy says to him,
you do realize it’s all falling apart don’t you? He said “you what?!”
He found out about climate change, packed in his job, started working full-time for Extinction
Rebellion, now he leads Extinction Rebellion drummers. And we have a guy, and we do this talk about the drones and Heathrow and what have
you, and he does the most impressive testimonial I’ve heard in my life. Because he’s just talking for himself
a normal guy. And he comes up to me afterwards and he says,
Roger I can’t wait til September! I can’t wait! His eyes are bulging with excitement! So my message to you guys is… you’ve got it: we can’t wait! So thanks very much. [Applause] [Sound of train]