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“So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go
Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh baby, I hate to go”
– John Denver
Available for interview: Tim Benton, one of the UK’s foremost experts on food security can be contacted on 020 7957 5745. He is director of the Energy, Environment and Resources Department at Chatham House and Professor of Population Ecology at Leeds University. From 2011-2016 he was the “champion” of the UK’s Global Food Security programme. He is an author of the IPCC’s Special Report on Food, Land and Climate (2019), and the UK’s Climate Change Risk Assessment.
Extinction Rebellion: We are scared
Today Extinction Rebellion is causing major disruption at London’s City Airport.
People have blocked the departure lounge and entrance road, climbed on the terminal roof, and glued themselves to the DLR entrance closing the station. One of them was former Met police detective sergeant, Jon Curran. As we write this statement, former paralympian James Brown is sitting on top of a British Airways plane that is waiting to depart to Amsterdam Sciphol Airport.
Ordinary people today have risked arrest to show how vulnerable we are. Extreme weather due to the emergency is already leading to increased crop failure, food crisis, and social unrest. As these increase, can we trust that the transport infrastructure will cope with the kind of shocks that are coming? We’re talking about the system that keeps us fed and free to travel. Can we trust that we won’t be facing empty supermarket shelves in the near future?
If a few hundred people can create this much disruption, what is global climate and ecological breakdown about to do? We are the early warning system ringing the alarm.
Multiple crop failures due to shrinking water supplies, increasing heatwaves, droughts and floods around the globe are a real possibility in the near-term. Once any part of the system begins to break down, there is no margin of error. Very quickly there will be food shortages, no flights, disrupted water and blackouts.
The Government has no contingency plan for this terrifying and imminent prospect. It doesn’t want us to know that it is totally unprepared. Parliament’s own Environmental Audit Committee last month expressed deep concern about the impact of rises in food prices on the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK – and the government’s complacency on the issue.
The Emergency is underway around the world and nothing is being done to stop it. Today’s action isn’t about targets in the years 2050 or 2100. It’s about now. We are all living inside a system that is taking us to a catastrophic fate. The question everybody needs to be asking is: when is the Government going to tell the truth about its plan for the emergency?
Extreme weather will tell this truth unless the Government does first.
NB. All elements of our actions today have been conducted safely without risk of danger to members of the public.
- Just last week, torrential rain and gale force winds shut roads and railways across the UK, and delayed flights at Heathrow. Rain also caused disruption the week before. In recent years, roads, rails, and bridges have consistently been damaged by intense rain and melted by heatwaves – both of which are becoming Britain’s new normal.
- The frequency of severe flooding across Europe will double by 2050, and there will be a fivefold increase in economic losses. If its fivefold in three decades, it is still serious in a decade. 14% of agricultural land in England and Wales is already at risk of flooding. Disruption is here. Now.
- 77% of UK’s fruit and veg comes from overseas. Heatwaves and heavy rainfall are already causing crop failures, loss of soil, and disrupting perishable food shipping routes. The onion harvest was so compromised in 2018 that Latvia declared a natural disaster, and Lithuania, a state of emergency. In France, the onion harvest was down 30% because of persistent rain. Parliament’s own Environmental Audit Committee last month expressed deep concern about the impact of rises in food prices on the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK – and the government’s complacency on the issue.
- A key bridge in Yorkshire due to be on the route of the cycling world championships collapsed in July after a month’s rain fell in four hours. It’s the latest in a series of collapses. Floods in 2009 collapsed or severely damaged 29 bridges in Cumbria alone. Roads and rails are also consistently damaged by intense rain and melted by heatwaves – both of which will only become more intense and more frequent. How will lorries transport goods if they can’t cross rivers and use roads?
- Last Spring, Cadbury’s, Jaguar and Land Rover had to shut their factories due to a national water shortage in the UK. Backup stock masked the impacts, but as shortages happen more frequently, chocolate will no longer arrive like clockwork.
- Several Northern European countries suffered losses of up to 50% in some crops in 2018. Germany is the biggest European producer of potatoes – its harvest was down a quarter in 2018.
- A major UN report warned in August that climate breakdown and exploitation of land and water resources are putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself. Lead author and senior research scientist at NASA Cynthia Rosenzweig said that “the potential risk of multi-breadbasket failure is increasing”, and that food crises could develop on several continents at once.
- 17 countries around the world – at home to a quarter of the Earth’s population and growing many of our crops – are already using almost all the water they have. Shrinking water supplies will tip areas covering millions of people over the edge.
- This means multiple crop failures are a real possibility in the near-term. It also means that factories may need to shut down to preserve drinking water, causing shortages of clothes, paper, food, beverages, and more.
- The UK government’s last major food security assessment was almost a decade ago, and the government has ignored advice to act on food security from its own independent advisers on climate change.
About Extinction Rebellion:
Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and abrupt, runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility, if rapid action is not taken.
Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.
Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:
- Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
- Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
About Rising Up!
Extinction Rebellion emerged from the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.