If I could just ask for two things… | Blog post by Rob Crews
As the more eagle-eyed of you will have noticed, the Find A Spark Facebook page has been re-posting the same stuff for a pretty long time! The reason being (amongst other excuses) that I’ve been dedicating more and more of my time to understanding the climate and ecological emergency and to activism related to it.
And it’s weird — although the climate and ecological emergency is huge, terrifying and going on RIGHT NOW, I’m actually excited. I’m excited because the stuff that I’ve been involved with — Extinction Rebellion being my main focus recently — has shown me how unbelievably energising it can be to work alongside other people who are equally determined in the face of a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Standing alongside people from all kinds of backgrounds (rarely even actually knowing their background) and working together with real determination… it leads to amazing camaraderie.
It’s important to note that whilst I’m excited now, this is a relatively new and certainly not permanent feeling. Often I’m terrified — the scale of what faces us is totally overwhelming. And the process of realising what we are sure to lose — because many of the impacts of the climate crisis are already happening and cannot be stopped — is a grieving process. People are dying because of the climate crisis right now. Often I’ve felt sick to the pit of my stomach for hours or even days at a time. But these feeling seem more manageable when you’re with others who are going through the same process and when you’re able to take action to try to change things.
So PLEA #1 from me is that you join with others who are confronting the climate crisis. Thankfully, it’s becoming increasingly easy to do this. Extinction Rebellion UK is amazing — local groups are popping up everywhere, so you’ll probably be able to find people who meet weekly within 15 minutes of where you live. If Extinction Rebellion doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, other longer-established groups are upping their game and doing some brilliant things — Greenpeace UK, Friends of the Earth and Possible (previously called 10:10) are all great to follow and in some cases may have groups local to you. If you’ve got other suggestions, please put them in the comments! And if you’re not at all sure where to go, just send me a message via the Find A Spark page — I’d love to chat!
Those of you that know me will know that I’m a pretty analytical, rational guy. I studied maths at university. I like spreadsheets. And I’ve spent a LOT of time reading about the climate crisis and what we need to do RIGHT NOW to combat it. I’ve written on here about Isabella Tree’s cry for rewilding as a tool to halt our rapid loss of biodiversity (and suck carbon out of the atmosphere in the process). I’ve written about Kate Raworth’s brilliant analysis of how our economy needs to change fundamentally in order for us to stop destroying the natural world. And I’ve written about George Monbiot’s ideas on how community can become the core of our transition to a sustainable world (and make our lives much richer in the process). And the fact is, simply, that we need to do all of those things immediately. And we need to do so much more. We need radical change.
Now, if radical change sounds scary to you — I totally understand. But the reality is that radical change is inevitable. The climate is going to change radically in the next few decades and our lives will change radically with it. With current policy, we face a temperature rise of 3.0-3.4 degrees celsius by 2100 , meaning we will pass 2 degrees in the next few decades. With 2 degrees of warming, there is a 60% chance that each European summer will be like the 2003 heatwave, which killed 70,000 people . Every other year will be deadly in Europe with 2 degrees of warming. And with 3 degrees, or in areas worse affected? It’s almost too grim to consider.
So the choice is simple — we either change radically ourselves or the climate and ecological emergency forces us to change radically (and surely suffer horribly in the process). And this leads me to PLEA #2 — to consider this need for radical change when voting in upcoming elections. As I’m from the UK, I’m going to talk specifically about the upcoming UK elections on December 12th, but there are many elections coming up soon and the same kind of logic applies.
Brexit has been a soul-destroying process. It has destroyed trust in the political system. But whatever happens with Brexit will be long forgotten when the waters start rising. We are stuck with the government for 5 years. If in five years we haven’t changed radically, hope is gone. The UN told us 12 months ago that we had 12 years to turn things around  — and that means we have to start moving NOW as by the end of those 12 years (2030) we have to have all of these solutions in place, which will take a long time to do. If we cut 5 years out of the 12, we’ve given up any chance we had.
So, then — which political parties are open to the radical change that is required? The Green Party certainly lead the way, focusing their manifesto on climate change and pledging net-zero carbon by 2030. At the other end of the spectrum, The Brexit Party do not mention climate change in their manifesto at all. Labour, despite their members voting for net-zero by 2030, have pushed it back to ‘within the 2030s’, which could mean 2040. The Liberal Democrats have committed to 2045.
And then there’s the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party do not appear to have any real ambition when it comes to the climate and ecological emergency. And lack of ambition means 5 years wasted. Net-zero by 2050 is far too late, exposing us to risks that hardly bear thinking about. Boris Johnson looks set to refuse an invitation to appear on a debate on climate change (which Labour, the Lib Dems, SNP and Greens have confirmed they will take part in). We’re facing catastrophe, and he can’t be arsed. It’s a disgrace.
It’s really important to say now that although the climate crisis is terrifying, it’s only one part of the puzzle. The processes that have led (and continue to lead) us towards disaster do not impact us all equally. Those who are least able to adapt — poor communities, oppressed indigenous communities, the global south — are hit hardest. The economic system that forces us to strive for eternal growth does so at the expense of those who can’t stick up for themselves — both globally and in the UK. And yet we’re taught to celebrate the billionaries, taught that riches come to those who hustle and that they will bring us eternal happiness. We’re told there’s no room for empathy when there’s money to be made.
And we’re left with a great tangle. A great tangle of connected suffering, oppression and wrong-doing. And because of this tangle, it becomes clear that we can hardly begin to solve one problem without tackling the others. How, for example, can you possibly go about tackling the climate and ecological emergency without first listening to and acting on the desperate calls of those who are most oppressed? You simply can’t, unless eco-fascism sounds appealing to you.
So at the forefront of the gargantuan efforts to come must be justice and equality. It’s impossible to conceive of us coming together on a global level to collaborate on the world’s biggest ever project, a project to save our species, if the vast majority of people on Earth are struggling to make ends meet whilst a small minority hold enough money to solve the problem. 1% of the world’s population holds 45% of the world’s wealth; the poorest 50% hold less than 1% . It’s incredible.
So, which political parties hold the values of justice and equality front and central? The Green Party, already mentioned as the shining example on climate change, shine again here. The Conservatives? Those that have suffered since 2010 will surely tell you that they act counter to these values — the poorest in society bearing the brunt of austerity. The Liberal Democrats, I’m sorry to say, were part of that government between 2010 and 2015, so their principles are very flexible. The Brexit Party, led by a man who is buddies with Donald Trump, will only take us further into dystopia.
And the Labour party? Although you can’t always trust a slogan, “For the many, not the few” is pretty appropriate in this case. Amongst many brilliant pledges, they plan to increase NHS spending by 4.3% per year (and reverse privatisation), provide free NHS dental checkups, scrap tuition fees, provide up to six years of free adult learning and training, provide free full-fibre broadband for all, increase pay for public sector workers by 5%, introduce a living wage of £10 an hour for all works over the age of 15, scrap universal credit, stop building privately-run prisons, introduce an act to stop a prime minster from bypassing parliament when trying to take the country to war . And all of this to be funded by increases in corporate taxation, income tax increases that will only affect those earning over £80,000, a financial transaction tax, tackling tax avoidance. The plan is there to strengthen the public services that the poorest people rely on, with the richest paying for it. That is justice and equality.
It’s worth taking a moment to consider the £80,000 threshold above which income taxes will rise. If you are around this threshold, you might feel frustrated that you are being asked to pay more when there are the ‘super rich’ who should surely be paying for all of this. I’m not an expert on tax, but clearly the line has to be drawn somewhere and this is where Labour has decided to draw it. And now is a good time to return to the climate and ecological emergency, to put things into perspective. The challenge we face is global, and the solution must be global. This means that inequality must be addressed globally. If you earn £80,000, you lie comfortably within the wealthiest 10% of humans living on Earth . We all must give our fair share — and the wealthier we are, the larger our share must be.
For me, the choice is quite clearly between the Labour Party and the Green Party. However, the strategy must be simply to ensure that the Conservatives do not retain power (as, in case you’ve forgotten, this means 5 wasted years and continued suffering for those are least able to deal with it). With this in mind, I would think carefully about the 2017 results in your constituency and how close things were last time around. If, for instance, it was incredibly close between Labour and Conservative with the Lib Dems far behind, voting for the Lib Dems in 2019 would simply win the seat for the Conservatives.
The same, I’m sorry to say, would also hold true if you replaced the Lib Dems with the Green Party in that situation. So, despite the fact that I love the Green Party and I think their manifesto is the best by miles, I’d beg you to vote Labour in that situation! This feels strange and uncomfortable, but it’s the reality that we’re in. The Labour manifesto lacks many things that the Green manifesto has — continued freedom of movement and net-zero by 2030, to mention just two. If Labour are elected, I will continue with my activism because they will still need to do so much more than they are saying they will do. But they’re promising a huge step forward and indicating their willingness for radical change. In fact, I’d probably double down on my activism because I think that under Labour it’s so much more likely to be listened to than it has been under the Conservative government. In particular I would call for reform of our voting system, to remove any need for these kind of tactics!
But tactical voting it must be. A good resource for determining whether your constituency was close between Labour and Conservative last time (i.e. where it is a ‘marginal’) is https://www.mycampaignmap.com. If what I’ve written here made sense to you, please start there. And if you’ve got questions or feedback on anything I’ve written here, please leave a comment or send me a message.
It isn’t hyperbole to say that this is the biggest election ever — if we mess this up, we’re ruining any chance we have to get through this.
And, perhaps, just a little context to finish this. I, like many of my generation, have been politically apathetic for most of my life. Across national, local and European elections I’ve voted Green, Labour, Lib Dem (pre-coalition) and also not bothered voting on several occasions. Although I’ve come to realise the horrors of a Conservative government, I used to work for a bank and my brain has worked through the sums of how I will personally be affected by various tax pledges in the past. I am far from perfect, and have contributed my fair share to the problems that the world faces. In fact, coming from a wealthy country and a middle-class background, I’ve contributed many times my fair share when you consider things on a global basis.
This is the first election where I’ve been active in any way — last week I canvassed for the first time ever, knocking on doors for the Labour party. This is certainly the first time that I’ve ever spent hours writing a post about voting! But this election feels really, really important. After the election, the real work begins.
 https://climateactiontracker.org/global/temperatures/  https://interactive.carbonbrief.org/impacts-climate-change…/  https://www.theguardian.com/…/global-warming-must-not-excee…  https://www.credit-suisse.com/…/global-wealth-report-2019-e… (see page 13)  https://www.theguardian.com/…/whats-in-the-labour-party-man…  https://www.credit-suisse.com/…/global-wealth-report-2019-e… (see page 9)