Climate Change · Protests and Events

Global Climate Strike 20th September: Birmingham

At 11am in Victoria Square there was the Birmingham event within the framework of the global climate strike. I took some footage from this event and will be posting it below with some brief explanations/comments.

Here is Victoria Square looked like around 11am, when the event was due to start.

Between 11.00 and 12.00 there were some speakers on the stage and I recorded some stuff from a couple of them. Firstly, here is someone from the Birmingham City Council:

And there was also a prospective Green Party MP who did a talk as well:

There were a lot of different groups represented with flags, banners, etc. at this event alongside the youth strikers. Here are some I noticed: Stop the War, Socialist Workers’ Party, International Workers of the World [IWW], a couple of other unions, Islamic Relief, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Extinction Rebellion.

Here are a couple of quick interviews i did at the event. Here’s a couple of guys from the Stop the War table:

And here’s a woman from Extinction Rebellion:

After the talks there was a march starting at 12.00pm. This lasted until 1.20pm (roughly) and it too a strange route round Birmingham City Centre, looping round a couple of areas twice. I did take footage at various parts during the march but most of this footage was unusable. The march began out the ‘back’ of Victoria Square and then went round to go past Birmingham Cathedral. This is the footage I took the first time the march went past the Cathedral:

I would try to explain the rest of the route taken by the march, but I’m terrible with directions and maps. One thing to me that was quite interesting is that we went past the Apple shop where a load of people were queuing for, presumably, whatever the latest Apple device is. Quite a surreal contrast!

This was the main part of the event that I attended and took footage from. There was a musician on stage, whom I didn’t watch to be honest. I had actually been looking for my MP, Preet Kaur Gill, who had said she was going to be in attendance but I personally didn’t see her so wasn’t able to ask her for comment. Apparently, according to the Twitter page she had been the first speaker at the event, but at that time I had been milling around talking to a few people and taking photographs/footage.

in conclusion, here’s a few photographs I took:

There was a lot more chalk on this thing by the end of the day.
The Socialist Workers’ Party had this cut out of Boris Johnson of which people were invited to stick on the obvious messages.
There were some people there with bikes promoting cycling.

Climate Change · Protests and Events

Extinction Rebellion Birmingham Meeting 17/07/19

Extinction Rebellion Birmingham ran an event on the evening of the 17th July in the centre of Birmingham.

XR flyer from the event.

I turned up really early (as usual) and got talking to a couple of guys outside – it turned out they were from the ubiquitous Socialist Workers’ Party. [For any non-UK readers: The SWP is a Trotskyist party that manages to turn up to pretty much everything, and they always have loads of newspapers to sell. I don’t have anything against any random individuals in the party, but to be honest, I’m not a fan of it.]

After going into the room (the Lyttleton Theatre in the Birmingham and Midland Institute) I did manage to talk to a few people from XR. I told some of them about this blog, and I was pretty impressed that they seemed to take it seriously even though I have very few readers on here. So I was at least pleased to make a few contacts in XR, even though I am useless at remembering names.

Eyeballing the crowd and comparing with the capacity of the venue, I would guess at about 100 people being there. In general the crowd had several older people in it, so it is clear from this that XR events don’t just attract millennials and younger, as this is what one would perhaps expect.

Summary of Talk by Larch Maxey

The main part of the event was taken up by a speech by Larch Maxey, an activist who said he has been doing activism on the climate for 25 years. He did a talk covering four main points: The science of climate change, the science of social change, the principles of Extinction Rebellion and future planned action.

He began the talk by saying that simply expressing the facts about climate change has not worked. People have been informed about the facts of climate change for a while now and nothing has changed. So we need to go beyond the facts and also engage the emotions when it comes to climate change. Even the most conservative estimates of climate change are pretty damning, and they do not fully take into account science that is not in the mainstream such as the delayed reactions of emissions and global dimming. He also pointed to the fact that climate change is becoming an increasingly large cause of biodiversity loss, when historically the largest causes have been habitat destruction and introduction of foreign species. He stressed the need to begin lowering greenhouse gas emissions now, and that the target of the UK government to lower emissions to zero by 2050 is far too late according to the scientific research.

He then moved on to the issues of social change and how that has occurred throughout history. He stated that revolution is portrayed in the media as an almost random event and is not analysed. His principles of achieving social change are based upon a non-violent movement, that involves disruption, that is respectful, and that involves self-sacrifice. He invoked some examples of individuals who made sacrifices during the Civil Rights struggle in America during the talk and stressed that for the movement to be effective it would probably be necessary for some people to go to prison.

The principles and demands were then listed: I will just link these from the XR website. He talked more about the demands for a Citizen’s Assembly and invoked the example of the use of these in Ireland. He also stressed that the methods of Macron – his introduction of a fuel tax which triggered the Gilets Jaunes movement – was flawed as it was a top down approach and people thus rebelled against it. He then spoke of the need to disrupt London as this is where the MPs and also the financial sector of the UK is, and that the UK is a very London-centric country.

After the Talk

After the talk forms were given out for people to volunteer to take part in Extinction Rebellion and to express their views on which roles that would like to play in the movement. A contact form for XR Birmingham can be found here for anyone who is interested. Then people were asked to speak if they were willing to go to prison in order to help the movement (this was one of the questions on the form). A few people spoke up about this and then after that the event had to finish because the group had to leave the room. I didn’t attend the group moving on to the pub afterwards because I had no money.

XR Flyer. Whoever designed these flyers did a really good job IMHO.
Climate Change · Protests and Events

Extinction Rebellion Birmingham 13/07/19

Photograph by the author.

On 13 July 2019 there was a protest by the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion. This was part of a larger round of protests which happened across the country.

The protest was focused around the danger of Fast Fashion to the environment.

On April 11 2019, a new Primark store opened in Birmingham, which has been certified as the largest fashion store in the world. For those not familiar with the city of Birmingham, this was what used to be there. At various points there have been some quite big shops in there – several years ago the HMV store used part of all four floors. Most of the top floor was called ‘The Loft’ and offered around 10 different booths to buy food and drink with a large amount of seating taking up a large part of the 4th floor. There have been other little or medium shops in there over the years as well. The main point is – a Primark taking up all of that space really is huge.

The location for the protest was outside this huge Primark building, as of course Primark is one of the prime promoters of fast fashion, given the endless amount of cheap stuff it manages to churn out.

Photograph by the author.

We [that is, me and my mother] went into the area around 2 o’clock when the protest was scheduled to start. We knew about it but were not officially part of it. At first we could not see anyone except a few people with tables, who looked to be not officially part of Extinction Rebellion [they were from the ubiquitous Socialist Workers’ Party and a couple of others I noticed on the way out were from the Revolutionary Communist Group]. Then while we were looking around the high street the protesters emerged from an adjacent street. It may have been pretty surprising if you didn’t know that Extinction Rebellion were going to be there. Here is some footage shot by myself of their march:

[This was probably the best footage I managed to get as a complete amateur. I apologise for the fact that you can hear me say ‘I’m a journalist’ near the end of the video. That was my mom winding me up. Lesson learned: don’t take your mom to a protest if you want to be a serious journalist.]

The protesters passed through the high street until they settled in front of the huge Primark store as can be seen in the above photograph. There were a couple of different leaflets handed out by the protesters. For those who have an interest in those, here are scans of them:

Following on from this one woman made a speech about fast fashion. I tried to record some of what she was saying, but unfortunately it was difficult to hear well what was said. Neither me nor the camera (i.e. my ancient tablet) did a very good job of picking up what she was saying.

After the speech there was a fashion show of sustainable designs modelled by a range of people. A fair crowd of ordinary people did have a look at the protest and fashion show. The fashion modellers walked down the pink aisles that can be seen in the top photograph. There were a range of designs that were showcased. A few that stuck out were one lady in a lovely yellow dress that had a vintage feel to it; a couple of men in block pattern dresses, one of whom was rather flirty; a man in a bright pink outfit including in his beard. After the fashion show the protesters in the designs gathered at the front with the pink and black Extinction Rebellion flags. The lady in the pink in the top image was at the front with the Extinction Rebellion symbol. If you want to see images from this they are available on this Facebook link.

I would like to conclude by talking more about the theme of the protest – that is the fashion industry and the effect that it has on the environment. In general – though I will confess to not being 100% perfect – I tend to wear clothes until they have holes and don’t buy too many frivolous ones that I don’t need. I still have plenty of t-shirts I still wear that I bought when I was 16/17 (mostly band t-shirts). I’m a charity shop scavenger as well – though mainly not for clothes – I have 2 clothing items from charity shops. However the main reason I do the charity shop approach to buying a lot of things (books, old video games, CDs, unwanted craft bits mainly) is because I hate the wasteful nature of society and like to rescue stuff other people don’t want in order to reduce landfill a bit.

I was aware like most Westerners of the terrible working conditions in the industry and how most of these inexpensive clothes are made by people being paid very poor wages in China, Bangladesh and so on. I mean, that on its own is enough of a reason to combat this industry. To be honest, I hadn’t really considered the impact of the fashion industry on climate change. I had no idea that it was so bad for the environment as to be worth specifically protesting against. It’s not an immediately obvious target like oil and gas or meat. So hopefully this protest informed more people about the terrible nature of fast fashion for the environment and encouraged more people to think twice before considering the new Primark in Birmingham a cause for celebration.