Climate change activism is like the Suffragettes or CND, says campaigner

PUBLISHED: 15:08 18 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:22 18 January 2019

Rupert Read

Rupert Read


Extinction Rebellion speaker due to give talk at Green Party meeting in Suffolk next week

Norwich Extinction Rebellion take over Western Link road consultation event at the ForumNorwich Extinction Rebellion take over Western Link road consultation event at the Forum

A leading activist has likened the campaign for action on climate change to the Suffragette movement for women’s votes or the CND struggle to ban nuclear weapons.

Rupert Read, who is a philosophy lecturer at the University of East Anglia, made the comments ahead of a keynote talk he is due to give at a Green Party meeting in Suffolk next week.

Mr Read said: “The climate crisis has become ever more urgent - the general secretary of the United Nations has said we have to put fundamental changes in place in the next 18 months or we are heading for catastrophe.

READ MORE: East Anglia on the ‘front line’ of managing the impact of climate change, says Environment Agency director

“Climate change is the great issue of our time and the one on which we will be judged by our children and grandchildren. We may well fail to do what we need to but we have to try our utmost. Young people realise they are facing a terrible future and some people are getting angry – we’ve seen school children going on strike in countries like New Zealand, Sweden, Finland and Australia. It’s a matter of time before it happens in the UK.”

A protester with Norwich Extinction Rebellion at the ForumA protester with Norwich Extinction Rebellion at the Forum

Urgent changes

Mr Read has been at the forefront of a campaign to persuade the BBC to stop featuring climate change deniers on its news reports and is also a leading figure in the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement, a growing organisation that advocates non-violent direct action and public disobedience to force politicians to meaningfully address the problem of climate change.

At the end of last year, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), made up of the world’s leading climate scientists, released a report warning that urgent changes are needed to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C, beyond which there is a significantly higher risk of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Mr Read said a growing number of people are backing the Extinction Rebellion movement with groups having formed in Bury St Edmunds, Colchester and Norwich, where campaigners recently organised a sit-in to protest against plans for a new link road across the west of the city.

READ MORE: Climate campaigners stage a sit-in protest at NDR event in Norwich

Protestors from Extinction Rebellion performing a 'die-in' to raise awareness of climate changeProtestors from Extinction Rebellion performing a 'die-in' to raise awareness of climate change

He likened Extinction Rebellion to other causes that have resulted in “huge mobilisations” such as the Chartists, the Suffragettes and the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).

“But there are two key differences,” he added.

“Firstly, CND is dealing with an appalling but potential threat - with climate change, unless we change the way we are living drastically we will destroy our planet and the definition of civilisation is finished.

“Secondly, there is a timescale here - the longer we prevaricate, the less chance we have to reduce the damage.”


We must live within our ecological limit, says Rupert ReadWe must live within our ecological limit, says Rupert Read

Mr Read said the answer to tackling climate change lies in economics.

“If we are going to get serious, we must stop aiming for endless economic growth,” he said.

“It’s a message that few people can contemplate, but people have to start living within their means, within their ecological limits – then we have a chance to give a future to our children.”

Mr Read will be speaking after the AGM of the Mid Suffolk Green Party at the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket on Wednesday January 23rd. The meeting, which is open to the public, will start with the AGM at 7pm before Mr Read is due to speak at 7.30pm.

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