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The Peace News log

Cedric Knight comments on Theo Simon's recent piece on Extinction Rebellion.

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Takver from Australia [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I hope to join at least some Extinction Rebellion events. I'd like to add further cautions, though, that aren't in any way meant to reduce enthusiasm but might affect tactics as regards communication, prompted partly by the talk by Dr Gail Bradbrook on the XR website. I'm a layperson but familiar with some of the climate science (less of the general ecology), and also some of the debates in science communication. In brief, we need to reflect the science accurately but also make those dispassionate facts emotionally meaningful by expressing our own reactions and the values we have in common with our audience, and present positive political and personal options that people can be inspired by and work towards. Climate Outreach's guidance warns that many people are turned off by pictures of demonstrations as well as pictures of polar bears, although this is social science research and a lot of it is uncertain and conditional.

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Sales of white poppies are higher this year than they've ever been – since the Co-operative Women's Guild created the symbol in 1933 to remember all those killed in war.

White poppies for peace

The Peace Pledge Union – the pacifist organisation that supplies and distributes white poppies in Britain – has sold 119,555 white poppies this year, as of the end of Wednesday 7 November.

The number is bound to rise further in the remaining days until Remembrance Sunday.

The previous record was 110,000 white poppies in 2015. Until 2014, the record was around 80,000 in 1938. Last year, the figure was 101,000.

The rise comes despite a stream of abuse against white poppy wearers on social media, and attacks on white poppy wearers from public figures including Conservative MP Johnny Mercer and broadcaster Piers Morgan.

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Theo Simon responds to Gabriel Carlyle's recent article.

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Morcom fire alarm horn/strobe at 8555 16th Street in Silver Spring, Maryland. Image: Ben Schumin via Wikimedia Commons

Gabriel's Peace News piece, “Why I'm sceptical about the Extinction Rebellion initiative (and why I hope I'm wrong)”,  contained some really interesting and valuable insights for structuring political  campaigns, but I think it missed the point entirely about what the Extinction Rebellion represents.

This isn't a campaign, it's an alarm.  We’re not trying to build fire-safety awareness and improve the provision of emergency exits - we’re trying to evacuate a burning theatre.

Some of us, myself included, have perhaps been aware of the unfolding eco-crisis for so long that we’ve grown acclimatized to it. We’ve seen the window of opportunity that a growing green awareness has opened, but forgotten that it is a time-sensitive, closing window. With every hour that passes the opportunities for survival have been shrinking, and the corrective measures required have become more drastic.

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If British peacemakers of the early twentieth century had been listened to, we could have avoided the rise of many destructive movements.

Each year, around Remembrance Day, people all over the UK uphold the memory of those who have died in war. Some people wear red poppies to remember allied soldiers. Others wear white poppies to remember civilians and soldiers killed in war and to express their hope for a culture of peace.

Frank J. Stevens, a Friends Ambulance Unit ambulance driver, with his vehicle in Wolfsburg, Germany, ?1945

This year, the St John Ambulance volunteer first aid group announced it would allow its members to wear the white poppy on their uniforms. This is consistent with the group's history, as St John Ambulance was one of the bodies under whose auspices the pacifist Friends Ambulance Unit risked their lives to tend the wounded in both world wars.

However, any hope that the national conversation about remembrance might be becoming more tolerant were quickly dashed. When the Peace Pledge Union’s coordinator Symon Hill was invited to ITV’s _Good Morning Britain_, he was barely allowed to speak by the show’s presenter. Piers Morgan took issue with the idea that anyone other than allied soldiers could be included in remembrance, shouting: 'WOULD YOU INCLUDE ISIS SOLDIERS?' 'WOULD YOU INCLUDE NAZIS?' After the encounter, Hill revealed that he’d had so many messages saying he should be killed that he stopped counting them.

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If Extinction Rebellion plans to gradually build capacity for its big demands by winning smaller-scale victories then why has it launched itself with (apparently) no indication as to what these smaller-scale wins are going to be?

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Melburnians at the March for Science on April 22, #Earthday2017. Image: Takver via Wikimedia Commons. https://tinyurl.com/y95xrm5n

Lots of people seem to be very excited about Extinction Rebellion (XR)’s ‘declaration of rebellion’ and its plans to ‘bring large parts of London to a standstill [later this] month’ to push its three big demands on climate change.

The issue could hardly be more important, a lot of effort appears to be going into XR, and hundreds of people are apparently fired-up and committed to engaging in civil disobedience over climate change. This is both impressive and commendable.

And yet, I have to say – as someone who has been involved in organising and taking part in acts of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience for over 20 years – that I’m highly sceptical about this initiative.

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An important new book on anti-racism in the age of Trump and Brexit is coming soon.

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A new book, The Fire Now: Anti-Racist Scholarship in Times of Explicit Racial Violence, published by Zed Books is being launched on Saturday 10 November in London. Peace News contributor Marc Hudson conducted an email interview with one of the book's three editors, Remi Joseph-Salisbury, presidential fellow in sociology at the University of Manchester. The other authors are Azeezat Johnson, an ESRC postdoctoral fellow at Queen Mary's University of London and Beth Kamunge, who is studying at University of Sheffield.

1. What has spurred you to put together this book at this time? What's in the book?

The book is born out of frustration, anger and a sense of urgency to respond to the particular forms of racism and fascism that have surfaced in recent years. Its also born out of love and hope and recognition of the beauty of resistance. The book includes contributions from a group of truly amazing academics and activists who are committed to anti-racist scholarship and practice.

With authors writing from and about a number of different countries – including (but not limited to) Kenya, Canada, the United States, Britain, and Ghana – the book seeks to push us towards a more global perspective on contemporary anti-racist scholarship. The international connections are particularly manifest as Sam Tecle and Carl James ask whether a Donald Trump-like figure could rise in Canada, and Keguro Macharia asks the same of Kenya.

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This is the longer version of an obituary of the prominent US radical pacifist.

David McReynolds, who died in New York at the age of 88 on 17 August, played a leading role in the US and international peace movement. He was one of the main organisers of the anti-Vietnam war mobilisation in the US, which not only contributed to the ending of that war but had a profound impact on US politics and society. He was also prominent in the anti-nuclear campaign both in the US and internationally, and, though not a gay rights campaigner as such, he declared himself a homosexual at a time when this incurred social ostracism and the risk of arrest.

In the early 1950s as an outspoken student radical in the Political Science faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), David refused be drafted to fight in Korea but turned down the option of a student deferment on the grounds that this privileged mainly middle-class young people. David graduated in 1953 and was active in the left wing of the Socialist Party USA.

In 1956, he moved to New York and took on various part time jobs before becoming the executive secretary of the radical pacifist monthly magazine LiberationHe was a frequent contributor to that journal and to the Village Voice. (A collection of his essays was published in 1970 by Praeger with the title We have been Invaded by the 21st Century.)

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Esme Needham reviews Tessa Boase's new book Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather

ImageTessa Boase
Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women's Fight for Change

Aurum Press, 2018; 336pp; £20

If you asked someone who had never read or heard anything about the origins of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) who they thought might have founded it, the chances are they would guess something along the lines of ‘some well-meaning elderly man who was opposed to the shooting of rare birds for sport’, or something like that. But it seems very unlikely that they would come anywhere near the real founders of the RSPB: a group of women who were passionately opposed to the shooting of rare birds for feathers.

They were led by a woman named Etta Lemon who was vocal in her opposition to the feather trade – a trade which caused the deaths of many birds from rare and beautiful species so that rich women could adorn their hats. She called it ‘murderous millinery’.

Lemon was a deeply Evangelistic woman and a talented public speaker, who had become passionate about animal rights after sharing a cross-Channel boat with a herd of terrified cattle. However, despite the rare compassion she harboured in that quarter, she was also greatly opposed to women's suffrage. This book casts her against a rather more famous figure, one whose views were exactly contrary to her own: the notable suffrage campaigner and devoted feather-wearer Emmeline Pankhurst.

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A food-centred gathering at Crabapple Community in Shropshire.

Radical Bakers 2018 wasn’t very radical, unless you count learning how to do things for yourself as radical… There were a range of practical skill based workshops. We had sourdough, baking, brewing, fermenting, infusions, ointments, cold remedies, textiles, woodworking, mushrooms, foraging, a team bake-off and loads more, full programme here.

The event was well-attended and made a small profit in the first year. The people who came were really relaxed and friendly and when we went to clear up, it took about half an hour. Stu, who recycles everything for us, said it was a pleasure to sort.

The workshops were well attended and engagement was high. We had a few people drop out at the last minute and their workshops were covered by volunteers who all did a great job. One of the things we encourage is shared learning with others rather than top-down teaching. There was a hands-on element to most of the workshops.

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A Trident Ploughshares Press Release

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Trident Ploughshares activists chained to houses of parliament in central London 20 June 2018

At 1.30pm on 20 June, while Britain's Westminster parliament was sitting inside, 60 activists from across the UK chained themselves to the railings outside the houses of parliament in central London. They are calling for the UK to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and disarm the Trident nuclear weapon system.

This action echoes similar actions by women’s suffrage campaigners 100 years ago.

The activists from the campaign group Trident Ploughshares chained themselves along 13 sections of wrought iron fence stretching from Big Ben to Parliament Square and hung banners that proclaim 'Denuclearize the World – Sign the Treaty' and 'Trident Terrorises'.

Nearly 50 years ago, the UK and other nuclear weapons states promised to negotiate to disarm their nuclear weapons. Their failure to keep that promise and their continued preparations to use these horrific weapons has led countries like North Korea to seek to acquire them. <--break- />

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