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Activists at Westminster

Billy Rickards


issue 99  spring 2019

From Gentle Living to Extinction Rebellion

Ele Waters describes how she awakened from her permaculture ‘sleep’ to become a peaceful yet civilly disobedient activist

For me to be writing an article about rebellion is quite ironic. Anyone who knows me is aware that I try to be a model, law-abiding citizen. I hate the idea of upsetting anyone and have very little time for, or understanding of, politics, preferring to garden and make things from sheep’s wool! I also really struggle with being in cities and crowds. I have just returned from London, however, having joined thousands of people in acts of peaceful civil disobedience. This involved causing massive disruption to the capital with the aim of getting the authorities to the negotiating table to discuss positive actions to tackle the ecological emergency that is climate change. I am now fully committed to working in this way for as long as it takes. Many have asked me why I’ve had a change of tactic, and why now.

My form of ‘activism’ has always been through living by example. With this in mind, my husband and I created Pentiddy Woods in 2002, a permaculture woodland project in Cornwall. Our aim has always been one of gentle, right livelihood as part of Nature, hoping to inspire others in the process. The project has been more successful than we could ever have imagined, way exceeding our aspirations. Pentiddy is a thriving community of beings: wild, domesticated, human, all with their niche roles. We have an intern programme which is training people in a whole range of sustainable land management skills. We run an award-winning natural burial ground, manage an in-rotation coppice which was previously bare fields, head the charity for a community woodland created here, live in a beautiful off grid straw-bale house, and are building a resilient community and regenerating culture through our work with Jon Young’s ‘8 Shields Model’. The money to support all who live here comes from the land and ideas to expand and extend are still coming in thick and fast. I was treading lightly but deep down I had a heavy heart.

We’ve been living in our little bubble for all these years, home educating our kids, baking bread, crafting our home and feeling positive about ‘doing our bit’. Then Wham! It hit me! The latest IPCC report came out ... then unbelievable silence in the media. This was swiftly followed by one of our interns being arrested for her involvement in the anti-fracking campaign in Lancashire. It was the ‘wake up!’ slap-around-the-face that I needed. My idyllic bubble burst allowing my awareness to expand. It was not that I was oblivious to all of this, but I think there was a big part of me that had felt too helpless to even dare look at it fully. I was now facing the knowledge that what we were doing here at Pentiddy, although valuable, was not enough.

That’s when another of our interns introduced me to the Extinction Rebellion, a movement that is most definitely facing the truth that time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, and abrupt runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility if rapid action is not taken.

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