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remembering the lost species of surrey

You may have seen them popping up at the War Memorial in Dorking on a Friday morning:  a group of people, out in most weathers, sitting in silence with a banner reading “Pause for the Planet”.  For several years now, Extinction Rebellion Dorking have been quietly asking passers-by to pause a moment and spare a thought for the planet and what we humans are doing to it.  Last Friday, they had something more to say.

This time the banner read, “Remembering the Lost Species of Surrey”.  One of the organisers, Sophie Blond, explained, “The Surrey Wildlife Trust has recorded at least 17 extinctions in the county in a little over 100 years.  This means that despite appearances, our so-called green and pleasant land can no longer support significant numbers or breeding populations of 17 species.”  She continues, “The problem is that each generation has little idea of how things were for the previous generation. So, our children grow up not knowing that they should see a pine marten chasing a squirrel through the pine trees on Leith Hill; that there should be a Water Vole running along the River Mole, or that they should see the glorious Lady Orchid growing tall amongst the grasses in local woodland clearings.  They don’t know what they are missing. We don’t know what we are missing.”

“The problems that face local wildlife are many.  The whole of Surrey is under pressure of development.  Mole Valley District Council’s plan alone includes planning for at least 6,000 homes between 2020 and 2037. As for water quality, earlier this year, the BBC reported on analysis that cited Dorking Sewage works as responsible for the highest number of unpermitted spills. Furthermore, untreated sewage was released into the River Mole on 223 days over the last four years. And then there’s the impact of effluence from industry, farming and road run-off.  We have a higher than national average of human deaths in Surrey due to human-made air pollution and now the Government has lifted the moratorium on fracking, parts of Surrey may well be threatened by industrial development. It’s little wonder that vulnerable species are unable to survive in the county.”

The 90-minute vigil ‘Remembering The Lost Species Of Surrey’ was interspersed with spoken eulogies to the 17 lost species. Passing public were offered an explanatory leaflet giving information about the state of nature in the county and ideas on how to encourage wildlife in their outdoor spaces. Members of the group reported that there are always a range of reactions.  Some people say they don’t have the time to take a leaflet, or look away, but others stop.  They were thanked by two members of the public for the work they were doing, especially out in the rain.  One passer-by said “The Climate Crisis is real.  I’m very concerned for the future of my grandchildren.” Another couple stopped and said, “We are visitors and more troubled about fracking news – hope that’s not happening in Surrey.”. 

According to Surrey Wildlife Trust’s plan, Restoring Surrey’s Nature 5 Year Strategic Plan published in 2018,  a third of Surrey’s biodiversity  (meaning all animal, insect, bird, fungal and plant life) is extinct, or heading that way, a statistic certainly worth pausing to reflect upon.

find your climate action

rebel blog by titia

Climate change is happening, you know that. You would like to do more. But you don’t know what, how, where or when. You don’t have time or energy to add something on top of everything you already do. What you could fit in your schedule feels so little that it doesn’t really seem worth it. Sounds like you?

I have good news for you. Your climate action does not have to be something additional and it doesn’t have to be big to make a difference.

I love this venn diagram by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. She says, don’t quit your job to get into climate action. Don’t start doing something that you don’t like or are not good at ‘for the good cause’. Look for what brings you joy and what you are good at, and where that overlaps with what is needed in climate action. Look within your current life, your job, your hobbies, your social life.

https://www.ayanaelizabeth.com/climatevenn

I recently joined my local Extinction Rebellion group in Reigate, Redhill and Dorking. I am living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the past three years and have very little energy. One of the things I do as part of my recovery journey is meditating. One of the things I miss in my new low-profile life is social activities. Last week I joined a silent protest Pause for the Planet. Nine times nine minutes of silence to draw attention to the climate crisis. It didn’t cost me energy. I enjoyed connecting with the people I did it with. And the peaceful but powerful statement we made drew attention to many people passing by. Most stopped to read our banners, some took a flyer and a few even joined us for a bit. Simple, friendly action can be very powerful. This action fitted my life and gave me joy and energy.

Meditation or sitting at the side of the road for 81 minutes might not be your thing and that’s ok. That is my point. Think about what you enjoy and attach it to that. Like walking? Join a climate march. Like drawing or painting? Help with making posters, banners or art for social media. Like writing? Write blog posts. Work as a teacher? Integrate climate awareness in math lessons, or help develop educational material. Work in construction? Educate yourself in more sustainable construction material, be curious and ask questions to colleagues, bosses, and suppliers. Member of a golf club? Ask if there is room to let more wildflowers grow and make it more friendly to local wildlife. Love cooking? Experiment with more local produce and meatless dishes or do a cake sale to raise awareness and money for climate action. You get my point, look at your current life and integrate climate action into it.

Overwhelmed by the size of the problem? Then there is one last thing I would like to leave you with. The power of small actions. I loved this quick calculation on Instagram. It was related to healthy habits, but the idea is the same. Doing a little effort regularly is more powerful than an occasional big effort.

Can’t find the time to block a full day to join a climate march? What about 5 minutes a day to sign a petition or retweet the message of a climate activist you like? You can take some flyers to your gym/ yoga class/ football club or write to your MP. You can translate this as well to doing a small thing each week or month is more powerful than one larger thing once or twice a year. You can for example make a change by writing one email each week to a company behind the products in your kitchen and ask what they do to fight climate change. Local extinction rebellion groups organise short protest or banner drop on a regular basis, like the Pause for Peace, or a 20 min protest Faith a the Gate in Horsehill our group organises each month. I encourage you to look for your climate action sweet spot. Something that fits your life and is close to your heart. Good luck and we would love to hear what you’re working on.

For next dates for Pause for the Planet and Faith at the Gate see our ‘Events‘ calendar or get in touch to let us know how you might like to get involved: xrdorking@gmail.com

The Air We Grieve

Today we will be taking action in Dorking and Reigate to highlight the issue of air pollution locally, nationally and globally.

Reason 1 – Health

Air pollution is one of the largest environmental risks to public health in the UK and contributes to shortening and reducing the quality of life for thousands. 40,000 UK deaths a year are estimated to arise from air pollution (Royal College of Physicians).

Globally, one in five people die from air pollution, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, like coal and diesel (Harvard School of Public Health).

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is widely understood to be the pollutant that is the most damaging to health, yet the Government’s Environment Bill 2021 does not set a limit or target for particle pollution – despite amendments proposed by the House of Lords for an air quality target for PM2.5 of less than or equal to 10µg/m3 by 2030 (UK Parliament).  This target was compatible with the former World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, which have since been lowered to 5µg/m3, although it recognises that ‘no threshold has been identified below which no damage to health is observed’ (WHO).

Reason 2 – Climate Emergency

Air quality and climate change are intimately connected, with many common causes.

The burning of fossil fuels causes air pollution and is driving climate change.  Yet our Government continues to support their production by subsidies and tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry and by funding projects abroad – the UK has given £13.6 billion of tax payers money in tax breaks and payments to the oil and gas industry since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 (Paid to Pollute)

Despite announcing that the UK Government would stop supporting fossil fuel projects overseas in December 2020 (UK Government), it still plans to support a controversial gas project in Mozambique.  Friends of the Earth will be challenging this decision in court in the coming days (Friends of the Earth)

The climate pact agreed at COP26 refers to the ‘phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’.   The Climate Change Committee that advises the UK Government makes clear that ‘No fossil fuel subsidies should be classed as ‘efficient’’ (CCC).

Fossil fuels are killing us.

We must demand that our Government stops supporting them, to both improve our health and hasten a just transition towards a zero carbon society.

Action you can take:

If you are interested in tackling air pollution locally this online event by the Community Planning Alliance on 7th December (more dates to follow) aimed at actively engaging communities in the air quality debate,  may be of interest.

Read about how XR Dorking monitored air pollution locally during lockdown here.

Support Paid to Pollute – taking the Government to court to stop payments for big polluters.

Write to your MP to ask them to call for the ending of fossil fuel subsidies.

Does your bank fund fossil fuels?  Check here.  Find a more ethical bank here.

Reduce the amount of car journeys you make – where possible walk or cycle for shorter journeys, lift share, or take public transport.  Plan ahead and combine trips. 

Do not leave your car engine idling while waiting for a prolonged period of time.

Take part in local actions with XR Dorking – get in touch

Horse hill appeal fundraiser

The online auction to raise funds for the Horse Hill Appeal is now live!

https://app.galabid.com/horsehillappeal

Climate campaigner, Sarah Finch, is challenging Surrey Surrey County Council’s decision to allow four new oil wells (in addition to the two existing wells on the site) and 20 years of oil production at Horse Hill, near Gatwick Airport.

At the Appeal Hearing, starting on 16th November 2021, the court will decide whether Surrey County Council should have taken account of greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil produced at the site.

This Auction Fundraiser is the last in a series of crowdfunding and fundraising initiatives to cover costs of the legal case, which have also included Pat’s 100 mile sponsored walk and  a sponsored bike ride from London to Barcelona.

Please support this fundraiser if you can! Click here

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Further information on the case from Weald Action Group’s website:

‘The oil produced here [Horse Hill] could give rise to more than 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gases when it is burned – but these ‘indirect’ emissions were not assessed during the planning process. Sarah argues that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should have included an assessment of the full climate impacts of the project.

Last year, a judge dismissed her challenge, but a judge in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Lewison said that Sarah’s argument “has far reaching ramifications” and “the emission of GHG is a matter of considerable public concern”. He added that “in view of the importance of the question, I regard this as a compelling reason for the appeal to be heard”.

If Sarah’s case succeeds in the Court of Appeal, it could potentially have enormous significance. In future, for any planning applications that are likely to have a major effect on the environment, the developer could have to assess the full climate impacts, including emissions that are outside their control.

This would be a huge step forward in closing the current gap between our climate treaty obligations and planning practice in the UK.

The hearing takes place in the Appeal Court in November 2021. Sarah’s lawyers are working hard preparing her case and will be up against lawyers representing Surrey County Council plus Horse Hill Developments Ltd and the the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Friends of the Earth has joined the case on Sarah’s side. Sarah is represented by Leigh Day solicitors, Marc Willers QC (Garden Court Chambers) and Estelle Dehon (Cornerstone Chambers). Friends of the Earth is represented by Paul Brown QC and Nina Pindham (No 5 Chambers).

East Surrey People’s Assembly

We’ve had lots of positive feedback from the first East Surrey People’s Assembly, which was facilitated by members of XR Dorking and XR Reigate and Redhill. Over 80 participants took part and contributed to the discussion ‘How do you want East Surrey to be in 2030?’

ESPA envisioned East Surrey in 2030 as a web of well-connected communities, collaborating with local authorities to realise community-led initiatives. A place where nature and biodiversity are considered full members of our community, protected by law and considered in all decisions. There were ideas for a fully integrated transport system, with significantly reduced car use enabling more pedestrianisation, safe cycling and walking. Others saw movement from a consumption-based society to embrace shared ownership, local production and a variety of re-use, repair and re-purposing schemes run by young entrepreneurs.

For more information on people’s assembly’s please visit the Peoples Assembly Surrey website

May local elections

At our XR Dorking/XR Reigate and Redhill People’s Assembly earlier this year, we set up a Working Group on Councillor Engagement.  This summarises the plan created by this Group:

Our objective is to put the climate and ecological emergency on the agenda in the local elections in May.  As many candidates as possible should be made aware that the climate and ecological emergency is a priority for many residents in their ward.  Using an approach developed by the South East Climate Alliance (SECA),  candidates are asked to sign an ABCD pledge card (below) that commits them to action in 4 areas – Aim Higher, Build Biodiversity, Communicate and Divest. 

What do we want to achieve?

To put the climate and ecological emergency on the agenda in the local elections in May:

  1. All candidates are made aware that the climate and ecological emergency is a priority for many residents in their ward
  2. All candidates are asked to sign an ABCD Pledge Card that commits them to action in 4 areas – Aim Higher, Build Biodiversity, Communicate and Divest.
  3. The list of candidates who sign the pledge will be publicised so that voters know who supports climate action. See http://bit.ly/ABCDsignatories to see this as it develops.

How will this be achieved?

1. We are asking residents across Surrey, who want to see action to tackle the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, to contact the candidates in their county council ward and district/borough ward who are up for election.

2. Put your postcode into https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/ and this will confirm the wards (County and possibly District/Borough) and all candidates standing that you can vote for. You may also be able to get contact details from election leaflets or local party offices.

3.   A sample email for this has been developed, at https://docs.google.com/document/d/13Y2uoxW_zNiqNeMtMhh9pkGvZVSGAss85sielxPqoJQ/edit?usp=sharing     

The email includes a request to candidates to sign the Pledge Card, which is attached as a pdf and asks the candidate to take a selfie of them holding the pledge card and send it to pledgeforclimate@gmail.com 

So please do write to the candidates in your area to ask them to commit to the ABCD pledge.

Surrey Pension Act Now

Surrey Pension Fund continues to invest in companies that are driving ecological collapse, mass extinction, and climate breakdown. The Fund still holds c. £70m in dirty fossil fuels, which risk becoming ‘stranded assets’, as the former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned.

It is ever more clear that the fossil fuel era is ending, signalled by the rapid growth in renewable energy supply, the mass production of electric vehicles and governments at last recognising the imperative to act.”

Surrey County Council’s refusal to divest the pension fund from fossil fuels has resulted in losses of £130 mllion in the three and a half years since May 2017.

To join the campaign calling on Surrey Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels please visit Surrey Pension Act Now

The Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill

The Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill was introduced to Parliament as a Private Members Bill on 2nd September 2020.  Guided by the current science, this Bill has been written by an alliance of scientists, lawyers academics and campaigners, in the hope of securing a sound strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restore the natural world, to try to prevent catastrophic climate change

Nature is our life support system – it provides food, water, medicine, pollination, helps regulate the climate and flood prevention, and boosts our mental health.  it is essential for our wellbeing.   But we have been living beyond the means of our planet and eroded natural resources, to such an extent, that habitats have been destroyed or polluted and wildlife is struggling to survive.  Scientists fear that the sixth mass extinction is underway.

In the UK alone:

  • 41% of all UK’s species have declined since the 70s (hedgehogs have declined by 95%)
  • 26% of the UK’s mammals are at a very real risk of becoming extinct
  • A third of the wild bees and hoverfly species have sustained losses, likely due to pesticides, habitat loss and climate change
  • 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have been lost

(State of Nature report 2019)

The CEE Bill requires urgent action to reduce the negative impacts that human activities have had on the health of soil and biodiversity and restore and enhance nature, so that it wildlife and ecosystems can thrive.  When they are healthy, living systems such as forests, peat bogs, saltmarshes and the sea bed, support life and absorb carbon from the atmosphere, which can help tackle the climate emergency too.  The Bill also outlines new targets for the UK to reduce its real fair share of carbon emissions, in line with the spirit of the Paris Agreement. You can read more about it here.

For the Bill to suceed it will require cross-party support and all MPs to unite behind it.   We need to all come together, to act for the common good.  The future of our children, their children and countless species is in the balance.

Please write to your MP asking them to support the CEE Bill.

We Do Not Have A Free Press

Overnight on Friday, 4th September, over 100 rebels blockaded newspaper printers overnight, successfully preventing The Sun, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Times from reaching newsstands all over the country.

In one of Extinction Rebellion’s most coordinated and disruptive actions to date, rebels simultaneously took site in Broxbourne, Liverpool and Glasgow with fantastically effective roadblock structures.

The media has a vital role to play in telling the most urgent story of our time – the climate and ecological emergency. We desperately need them to stop spreading hatred and lies, and instead take a real lead to help us come together to hold our government to account.

‘Priti Patel has accused us of making an “attack on free press, society and democracy”. That’s hyperbolic for sure. But let’s not get distracted. Our free press, society and democracy is under attack – from a failing government that lies to us consistently, is becoming increasingly authoritarian, and is leading us towards 4 degrees of warming.

Priti Patel and her government are part of a political system that does not want and does not benefit from a free press. Instead our leaders have allowed the majority of our media to be amassed in the hands of five people with powerful vested interests and deep connections to fossil fuel industries. [1] Powerful vested interest has led to the appointment of Tony Abbott – a friend of Rupert Murdochs, a climate change denier, misogynist and homophobe – as a UK Trade Envoy. Our leaders are allowing these powerful few to deny the young the information they need to plan for their futures and defend themselves. ‘ (from XR Press release 5.9.20)

A free press is vital. But UK mainstream media is not ‘free’ press. It is owned by a few billionaires whose agenda is not holding government & powerful institutions to account for their negligence in failing to act to protect its citizens.

For democracy to work, people need to be in possession of the facts.

[1] BBC documentary The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000kxw1/the-rise-of-the-murdoch-dynasty

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!

Local rebels joined a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party outside Gatwick Airport yesterday to protest against the high carbon footprint of the airline industry.

Less than 10% of the world’s population has ever been on a plane. Yet the airline industry is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Rebels in fancy dress were joined by a former pilot who left the airline industry, for which he had worked for a number of years, as he felt that he could no longer support the carbon-intensive industry.

The Rebel Riders, en route from Brighton to London, arrived to the sight of rebels performing Discobedience in the centre of the roundabout!