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Confetti - Your Future

Tracy Neale of Extinction Rebellion Nottingham on the Fight for the Future

19 September 21 words: Megan Hill

A self-proclaimed rebel, Tracy Neale is on the front line in the fight for our future in her role with Extinction Rebellion. I spoke to Tracy about her active role in the XR Nottingham faction and beyond in order to understand a movement which is so much bigger than any individual...

Tracy sits outside the Theatre Royal in her rebellion of one. Last month the IPCC declared ‘Code red for Humanity’- stating that the Global Climate crisis had become largely irreversible. The world’s media, of course, pounced on the announcement as though it were breaking news, as though it was a tragedy impossible to predict. And yet this media frenzy was simply confirmation of what Tracy had gravely informed me of when we had spoken weeks before.

“There is a tipping point where problems will massively escalate and we can do nothing about it,” Tracy explains, telling me that this see-saw moment is predicted to occur in less than a decade. “We have nine years until we reach the point of no return. Nine years to take definitive action before all our efforts will be futile. We can prevent that but we need to start working now. Right now.”

Simply put, I could be celebrating my thirtieth birthday with the news that humanity is doomed. Pretty bleak, huh? But hope prevails in the form of Extinction Rebellion (XR), a movement born out of the realisation that for thirty years the scientific community's concerns have been falling on deaf ears, and we cannot not afford thirty more. “We are hurtling faster and faster towards extinction with very little resistance,” Tracy states. “We can choose to wait for a series of catastrophic events that our systems can’t cope with, and then the inevitable food shortages, destruction of homes, desperate migration and ultimately violent conflict over scarce resources… or we can plan, act, change course, looking ahead to prepare and protect ourselves as far as possible.”

Extinction Rebellion’s approach is peaceful, but it is far from passive. Frustrated by empty elections and endless petitions, XR took on a new approach, one of non-violent, disruptive civil disobedience. In other words: a rebellion. An informed rebellion that, Tracy explains, “combines an understanding of the science whilst acknowledging the inadequacy of the economic system to deal with the threat.”

The fact that the world's richest 1% are responsible for 78% of all greenhouse gas emissions prompts me to ask Tracy how long people will continue to choose profit over life, “I think the rich live under the illusion that money will protect them,” she answers. “I suppose until now it has, but they haven't come up against mother nature yet.

“The very structure of society is causing the problem,” she continues. “Injustice and the continued extraction of finite natural resources are built into our system-it is completely unsustainable.” How can we possibly turn to the root of the problem to look for a solution?

I think the rich live under the illusion that money will protect them... but they haven't come up against mother nature yet

And so, once again, we must rely on our most underrated secret weapon: the power of the people. “Engaging the public is a top priority, because public opinion influences government decisions. The electoral cycle means parties are only ever thinking a few years ahead and how to get those votes at the next election. This problem is bigger than that, it requires a long term plan and long term commitment.”

Within the UK, XR is centred around three demands, one of which is the formation of Citizens Assemblies: bodies of ordinary people, educated by experts, who would then advise the Government on climate and ecological justice. Tracy clarifies, “We are cautious not to push our own solutions because we think people have to be involved in the collaborative process.”

This belief remains at the core of the Extinction Rebellion; it is a ‘do it together movement’. There is nobody ‘in charge’, there is no ruling committee. “We are very open to new suggestions, if someone has an idea then we’re more than happy to go for it!”

In fact, if you’re a Notts local you may have spotted one such idea recently, as members of the XR collective staged a campout on the Embankment. “We spoke to so many members of the public over that weekend. I like to think that engagement with the public contributed to the County Council's declaration of a climate emergency.” While Tracey acknowledged the progress, she was quick to reiterate that actions will always speak louder than words. Just weeks later demonstrators at County Hall were left disappointed after their objections to plans for a new incinerator in Nottingham were ignored. “The council is just really ill-advised, it feels as though they are constantly pushed for time and their funding is relentlessly cut, they don't have access to the expert information that they need.”

The disparity between pledges and actual policies is a huge concern. Even high-profile commitments like the Paris Climate Agreement are being shunned, leaving the world at risk of catastrophic warming nearing three degrees.

“That's the biggest danger. People are constantly being told by fossil fuel companies, by banks, by our own Government that they are ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’,” Tracy says. “They have recognised it is in the public consciousness and so they must now at least say the right thing to appease people. But these are buzzwords-nothing more. Watch them closely.”

This frustration is exactly why ‘tell the truth’ remains XR’s primary demand. “They know the science, of course they do, it is their job to know the science. But they do not want us to know.” How can the people begin to demand what is needed, if they do not know what that is?

By the end of our talk, I am exhausted. It has been quite the emotional rollercoaster, rays of hope are quickly cloaked by smog - literally. I find myself very sheepishly asking Tracy, whether she thinks all of this is going to work. It is a painfully accurate summary of affairs - I am asking a stranger through a screen if my future is secure, because my government continues to be woefully inadequate. Tracy notes my concern. “I’m scared too. I find it hard speaking to your generation, actually. I wish you didn't have to deal with it but there's no way around it and liberation comes in facing it. It’s not easy, we face a lot of criticism: ‘How is this going to work?’, ‘The problem is too big’, ‘You’re going about it the wrong way…’ I just think, well, have you got any other suggestions!? We've been conditioned to feel powerless, but we don’t have to be. Now we must face our reality, say we know what's coming but we are willing to do something about it.”

XR is a joy to be involved in. Yes it can be nerve-wracking, but at the end of the day those personal inhibitions have to be silenced, because there is more at stake

Tracy refers to Greta Thunberg's now infamous image of the burning house, “For myself I extend that too. If my house was on fire and my children were inside, I wouldn’t stand back and say ‘oh, that’s too big of a problem’ or ‘I think I’ll just wait for someone else to come and help.’ No! I’d be doing absolutely anything I could, no matter how futile. Nothing would stop me putting that fire out.”

Tracy’s courage and commitment is contagious and she is eager to welcome those willing to support the movement. “We believe that if we equip people with knowledge and support while empowering them as individuals, they will then naturally take the next step themselves,” she continues. “XR is a joy to be involved in. Yes, it can be nerve-wracking, but at the end of the day those personal inhibitions have to be silenced, because there is more at stake. And it's just a relief to be around people who understand! It helps cure the fear. I feel as though I am taking back control of our future.”

There is no criteria for entry and it is never too late to get involved. “Everyone has something to contribute, even if that is just another face in the crowd.”

Extinction Rebellion is built on the shoulders of ordinary people, like Tracey or you or I, who have awoken to the extraordinary threat we are facing. Any one of us can join the fight - it will take all of us to beat it.

Find out how to get involved:

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