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Interview with Extinction Rebellion Activist Izzy Carveth

It’s 2019 and modern-day society faces an endearing crossroads of decisions for our future. Our generation is at a tipping point where we can either accept the disastrous effects of our over-consumption causing global warming or a to do something about it to ensure, not just a brighter future but an actual future in itself.  This is something I’ve become more aware of and challenges my conscious daily decision making, but (probably like most of us) I feel quite lost on where to start to even make a difference. It goes without saying that its easier to make small changes first and that every contribution is always a step forward. From my observations I’ve noted that the 2 main steps to combating our environmental crisis is to 1) create and spread awareness which is then followed on by 2) actually acting apon this to make a difference. I’ve recently noticed the increasing public exposure of activist group ‘Extinction Rebellion’ both locally AND globally. For example, it was just last week that a number of people managed to get into the house of commons during a brexit debate, strip down and glue their bums to the glass in clear view of the politicians with XR paintings over their bodies? They said this was the biggest breach of security in the house of commons since 2014… But if you’re like me, wondering WHO are these people and WHAT are they trying to achieve? Then you’re in for a treat because we’ve managed to bag the time for an interview with 22 year old student and XR activist, Izzy Carveth,  to find out what this is all about…..

“Rebel for life” take over on the streets of Bristol. The remnants of the Stokes Croft XR Street Party.

B: Hey Izzy! I’m so excited to learn about this movement and as it stands at the moment I’m pretty clueless so lets start right at the beginning, who are XR?

I:  Hey! So XR stands for Extinction Rebellion which stems from a campaign started by the organisation ‘Rising Up,’ set up to help bring awareness to the IPCC (intergovernmental campaign on climate change) report released last year, stating that we had 12 years left to stop the global warming of 1.5degrees, or face catastrophic consequences - droughts, food shortages, sea levels rising at a much faster rate, ecosystem breakdown, mass extinction etc etc.

B: Wow. 12 Years? That’s scary. I feel like all of these drastic consequences are happening around the world already with the Cyclone Idai hitting Africa last week killing hundreds of people- And yet seems like everyone is pretty blindsided by Brexit to even notice?

I:  It is scary and without depressing anyone too much, yeah the environmental situation is pretty bad. Even with the ’12 years’ left, its likely to be even less time as the earth has already heated just under a degree in the last 50 years. 18 of the 19 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. Sea levels are rising every year, and the rate at which they’re rising is increasing. Ocean acidification is happening - seas are warming, corals are dying, ecosystems are falling apart. To really get an idea of what is happening in terms of unpredictable climate, you just need to look at the news, maybe not the mainstream news because like you said that’s full of brexit, but if you look for it you will find it. And regards to Cyclone Idai what people don’t realise that now thousands of people will become climate refugees, displaced from their homes due to climate change related freak weather incidents destroying the places they come from. Africa is one of the worst hit continents but these things are happening all the time, but they’re not reported nearly enough in the UK, so people don’t know what’s going on. We live in a bubble, we’re lucky at the moment, but did you know England might run out of water within the next 30 years? Most of the food we rely on is imported from other countries, and this won’t be possible if things continue the way they are going.

 

B: To be honest our future already seems all pretty doom and gloom... where does XR come in?

I: Out of this whole catastrophe XR is actually something really beautiful which has brought people together to fight for a like-minded cause, it’s bringing awareness to something which needs to be talked about. It’s like a big old family, everyone’s equally as stressed and depressed but motivated and passionate.

B: What are their values?

 I:  XR have 3 main demands...this is what they are but very briefly…you can read more about it in depth on their website and various social medias...
  1. For the government and media to tell the truth about the climate and ecological crisis
  2. To reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025
  3. To allow a national Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes needed

However, One of XR’s most important values is ‘wellbeing.’ They work on the premises of having a ‘regenerative culture’, limiting the amount of burn out people face after they dedicate so much time to the cause. We make it our number 1 priority to look after each other, for example - on actions there will be wellbeing teams to look after the people doing the actions, getting arrested. They will be there to make sure you are warm, fed, and just generally ok. Any money which is donated is used primarily for helping XR with materials, leaflets, travel, room hire, equipment. No one at XR is paid a wage, however there are sometimes payments called made under “compensatory budget” to help volunteers with living expenses. We need to make our culture more regenerative if we want to carry on. Permaculture is an excellent example of how we should live...sustainably. Give back as much as we take. This is a very stressful and emotional thing to be involved with, and it’s ok to tap into those emotions, but we need to know when to take breaks and regenerate. You are of no use to yourself or anyone else if you are too burnt out.

B: I see what you mean about XR feeling like a big ol’ family of people- I guess in some way you can look at it as a mass movement of people creating awareness by showing care and love to not only the environment but each other. And that really if we all just actually cared a lot more about everything and everyone on the earth we wouldn’t be in such a crisis?

I: Exactly. I think I first became so much more aware of this concept whilst studying my chosen degree Marine & Natural History photography at Falmouth. I love the marine and the terrestrial world, but we are constantly taught about ‘marine conservation’, ‘ecological conservation’, ‘animal conservation, so it seemed completely absurd to me that not many people, if any, on my course were talking about the climate crisis. Why are we trying to conserve all these places without tackling the biggest issue?

B: Is the point where you sought to take action?

I:  Yeah, so I first became involved with XR when I decided to base my second semester film on them. I had heard about them through the news but thought I would never have been able to really feel a part of it living all the way in Falmouth. However, I then found a student group, which led to me meeting someone really amazing and dedicated to the cause, who then introduced me to more passionate people, who I am now involved with all around the country. I’ve never felt as passionate about something as I have with this.

The writings people did using the biodegradable blood we poured outside Downing Street, during “Blood of our Children”

B: I can definitely feel your passion .. it’s somewhat infectious ( in a good way!) Since joining XR what have you been involved in?

I: A couple weeks ago I visited London for the event “The Blood of our Children”. When I turned up to the London offices I was immediately dragged into mixing together 100 buckets of fake, biodegradable blood. The ingredients consisted of golden syrup, water, corn starch, pond dye, beetroot dye and cocoa powder - it tasted pretty good…

50 Volunteers then made their way to the gates outside downing street and poured it all over the road in an act of civil disobedience. The blood was there to represent the blood of past, present and future children affected by the climate crisis. This was a highly emotional fuelled act, and an emotional day for me - I shed a tear or 2. The atmosphere of a big action like this is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. However, this was very much a publicity stunt to gain attention, it got us onto to the front page of the Sunday Times which is amazing, but I’m very excited for more proactive actions.

B: Wow, that’s pretty… dramatic. I hate blood whether its fake or real so seeing something like that would definitely leave a lasting impression on me - so I’m sure , and HOPE, it did for everyone else.

I: It got people's attention, that’s for sure. It’s controversial...but we’ve tried petitions, we’ve tried the peaceful marches...they don’t get results. XR spread their message through NVDA - non-violent direct actions. This is so vital to the core values of XR “We start as we mean to go on” someone once said. Non-violence gains respect, no one who ever governed with violence was memorialised in a positive light. We just want people to take notice, to talk about it, and to make the government talk about it. Actions are organised all around the country by different regional working groups, there will be something happening wherever you are!! Look out for facebook events and the events section of the websites. Then there are very large events organised in big cities which are always pretty extravagant.

B: Gotta make a statement to heard ! When I was doing some initial research I found this quote online “this is our chance to get loud, get arty and get out there - we'll be designing artwork for flyposting, organising illegal raves, chalk spraying the streets and letting the world know April 15th is coming, it is coming and it will be fekking beautiful! What is the significance of’’ creative rebellion’ as an activist?

Marching band - Stokes Croft XR Street Party. Music is a vital part of many XR actions, we wanna make a point, but have a damn good time while we do it!

I: Activism is for everyone. Climate collapse will affect everyone. Not just the scientists who discovered it, not just the government who are ignoring it. I find the most effective way of connecting with people through Instagram is with art- they are definitely our most popular posts. Creative rebellion gives people opportunity for artistic freedom and you don’t need to know all the science to make a difference, you don’t need to be a public speaker to have a voice. You need to spray chalk the fuck out of places, you need to memorialize this amazing uprising, you need to put some fat speakers in the middle of the road and rave for the goddamn planet !! Make a statement. This is the kind of stuff which will keeps us going.

B: It seems like if you enjoy going to illegal raves and being involved with climate activism it all goes hand in hand?

I: I think so: both are rebellions against the current system, both represent freedom. When I’m not obsessing over the state of our climate and world, I enjoy going to raves and immersing myself in festivals - this is my time out (I can’t wait for summer!)

B: I can feel the build up to summer is bringing both excitement but a sense of anticipation. What else do you and XR have planned ?

From the 30th of March we began an action called ‘Paint the Streets’ bringing together people all over the world to cover the streets with posters, paintings, stickers and much more. This will carry on for as long as people carry it on...Bristol Bear Pit has been taken over with some pretty epic paintings I would recommend going to check it out!!

On Friday 12th of April there will be the third official YouthStrike4Climate. Another important one for your diaries. This happens every month, and last month it was estimated that 1.4 million children took part in over 2000 cities around the world.

B: 1.4 million children! That’s insane! I didn’t realise it had become so big. What’s happening April 15th?

I: On April 15th, alongside 27 other countries, we are taking back the streets. For a week (or 2) we will be blockading roads and pivotal places around London. Starting in parliament square and from there moving to various other spots, we will set up camp and stay for as long as it takes for the government to take notice. These camps will have more than just people camping, there will be music, theatre, poetry, speeches, wellbeing areas, kids areas, public assemblies and a different theme each day. We are fighting for our lives but having a sick time while doing it!

B: Will you be there?

I: Of course That goes without saying.. I’ll be in Hyde Park Corner from 11am on the 15th of April, this is where we want the youth to assemble and hold for the duration. We will doing a variety of other actions through those 2 weeks so keep your eyes peeled.

The procession of youths at “Blood of our Children” - during this action, adults were not allowed to speak, only young people.

 

B: You’ve mentioned ‘youth’ quite abit – is there different areas of involvement in XR?

I: After travelling up to London to visit the national XR offices and meeting some really awesome youth, I discovered they were branching out to create an XR Youth group. I was immediately interested - how many times has your voice felt inadequate because you’re too young? Too many times. Being part of a group of people who are all around the same age as you is refreshing, it is our future we’re fighting for after all, isn’t our voice one of the most important?

B: Too true. It seems like too many of OUR future’s decisions are being made by people who it won’t even effect. What’s your role in the youth group?

I: I’m currently part of the XR Youth Media and Messaging team, I mainly help to run the instagram. Using social media for something positive is really refreshing and engaging with so many inspiring young people is really rewarding. I have an online meeting every week with the team where we discuss our progress and how we can move forward.

B: Social media is SO powerful which is why I try and take the opportunity to use Bellisa X as a platform; a voice to spread positivity and raise awareness for all causes! Always room for improvement but this blog is a start. What events have you been involved in with youth XR?

I: I recently attended a youth weekend hosted by one of the members of XR Youth, where we discussed how we would run XR Youth, and upcoming actions to be taken. We have taken knowledge and wisdom of how the main XR group is run and moulded it to suit us. We have people as young as 13/14 working with us all the way up to 30, and each person has something to add. It’s a really beautiful set up. There’s even been talk of bringing XR Youth headquarters to Bristol which has got me all excited...but we shall see.

“I’m obsessed with animals, but also people’s stories and how people connect with the environment. Comedy and humour are one of the most important things in my life, without these I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. You have to give yourself time to laugh on a degrading planet otherwise you’d become really depressed.”- Izzy

B: Bristol heads! I know you’re reading this..Take note if this is something you wanna get involved!

I: It’s definitely something I’m keen to push! I’ve also attended 2 Youth Strike 4 Climate’s, the school strikes inspired by Greta Thunberg, one of the most amazing young woman to have graced this planet. A Funeral March - an act where a coffin is carried through a town centre with a procession of people and music. This is done to mourn all the species which have gone extinct and who are going extinct right this second - 200 species go extinct every day?! Another emotional day.

B: Extinction Rebellion seems like the actual definition of activism! I can see how its so empowering and inspiring being part of the movement. I’ve recently realised myself, that the more you do, the realise the more you can do and want to do – this can be applied to anything. The first small step of action opens up a powerful gateway to motivation and seems to be something that XR is really channelling – and most importantly all for an amazing cause. What can people reading this do to effectively help the environmental crisis?

I: I personally try to live an eco-friendly life, although it is hard on a student budget. I eat mostly plant-based, limit my plastic consumption, try to buy only from charity shops and independent businesses. When you become more aware of the effects buying certain things has, you can’t help but be more conscious in your purchasing decisions. BUT I’m not going to tell you to do the same, have shorter showers or turn the lights off when you leave a room (although this is also a totally normal thing) or even sign anymore petitions. It goes without saying...this kind of campaigning is outdated and ineffective, how many people would have to drastically change their ways to actually have an impact on the factors contributing to global warming? A lot. The change needs to come from the top BUT we need to demand it. Yes the future is going to be different, there will need to be big changes, but holy shit won’t it be worth it? It’s either face the change or face mass extinction.

Signs which can be seen all through the country - this one again in Stokes Croft.

B: Sooo, what are you saying?

I: Rise up with XR! We are always looking for people to help with various parts of XR Youth especially as it’s only recently been set up. We have media teams, outreach teams, actions teams, and wellbeing teams. Everyone has a skill set that will be of use to us. Follow us on instagram, follow us on facebook, check out the website and sign up through the links. Stay up to date and support it, and if you want to have a proactive approach then let us know. We have tons of chats that are always active, and online meetings every week for whatever team you’re in. It’s a really beautiful network of young people fighting for change.

B: And, as a brand what do you think Bellisa X can do?

I: Bellisa X is an incredible independent and sustainable brand, you’ve already done so much within your business to limit your wastage, like creating your epic trixi playsuit out of scrap material. There are more ways you can limit your own carbon footprint. Removing plastic packaging for instance, which I know is difficult for a business but there are alternatives...or even having a reusable packaging. Sourcing materials and fabrics from inside the UK...small things which make a business more eco-friendly and make your customers more aware of steps you are taking, so might in turn take steps themselves.

B: I definitely find it harder as a business to reduce carbon- footprint as opposed to my personal lifestyle but some steps we have taken are.. Our postage bags are recyclable and I am looking to swap to bio-degradable packaging on our next order. With our other padded envelopes I’d really hope that customers re-use them for their own parcels as they’re too beautiful ( shiny gold mmm )potentially damaging for the environment AND expensive to waste. Likewise we also separate our minimized waste into textiles, paper etc to be recycled. With regards our fabrics, that one is a little more tricky. As although nearly all our materials are bought in the UK I’m aware it doesn’t mean they were manufactured here. It’s something I’m keen to look into and share with my customers and then they can make the conscious decision with their purchase. I think its so important as a business to communicate honesty and transparency.

I: The main port of call is to raise awareness and put pressure on the governments to take action. But for now, the most important thing, like I said, is raising awareness on your platform.. So thank you for writing this blog !! There is a specific XR fashion subsection (@xrfashionaction on instagram) holding actions against large scale fashion manufacturers causing damage to the environment, as a brand this might be something you want to support or get involved with.

B: I feel that a lot of our following is full of creative people who love to make a statement in the for of fashion, festivals and free parties. So I’m hoping from reading this, they too will spread the message! Thank you so much for your time answering in all the questions in such extensive, inspiring and informative detail- as a final message what would you like to share ?

I: We need you. This is the most vital time for life on earth, this really is the tipping point. I can’t express enough how important this is...this is literally life and death. The climate is collapsing as we know it, just because it’s not happening on our doorstep doesn’t mean it’s not happening all over the world. It’s gonna be intense, it’s gonna be mad, but it’ll be worth it. Rise up with us and let’s take back the power !! And lets create a community of people we can turn to in our darkest hour, because if everything goes to shit, we’re gonna need each other more than ever.

 

The pouring of blood outside Downing Street. A realistic, uncomfortable sight.

 Want to learn more? Izzy has put together some useful links for you guys to read/watch more about Extinction Rebellion and our Environmental Crisis.

P.S want to help but still don’t know how? Then share this blog post to spread even more awareness !!

Extcintion or Rebellion? - Video. 54 seconds.

Culture Declares Emergency -  Video 2.25 minutes.

The MOST epic TEDx Talk ever by Greta Thunberg - Video 1.16 minutes.

Extinction Rebellion Youth Website

Extinction Rebelion Website

XR Parliament Takeover - Video 5.37 minutes

'Heading for Extinction'- Oxford XR Talk 1hr.46 minutes

XR Youtube Chanel

 

 

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