Atoning for the inaction generations past

Dateline London October 7.

Reveille: Extinction Rebellion foot soldiers assemble in St. James’s Park

Heading for a breakfast meeting, I exit the Tube to walk across St James’s Park with Buckingham Palace to the left and the government office on Whitehall on the right.

In front of me is a white-haired couple bent by considerable age and from carrying a great deal of camping equipment: waterproofs, sleeping mats, loaded rucksacks and a tent.  They look like aged rockers on their way to Glastonbury.

Or are they perhaps homeless, having slept the night in the park and now heading for a cardboard box above a warm ventilation duct?  Not an uncommon sight in the world’s most prosperous cities.

I enter the park and find my answers.  Bleary-eyed campers of all ages are arising – many older than the aged rockers ahead. These are the army of middle-class rebels who are the foot soldiers of Extinction Rebellion (EX), the climate change action group using peaceful civil disobedience to disrupt society. 

In an age of fake news, EX says “it’s time to tell the truth”, arguing that the UK’s net-zero 2050 carbon target is a “generation too late”. 

Their call has resonated with a remarkable number of people the age of Greta Thunberg’s great-grand parents who are turning out in ever greater numbers to disobey.  Or as some have said: to atone for their generation’s inaction that has led the world to a climate crisis.

A few hours later, with helicopters swirling overhead and young police officers running about, I read a newsflash: 135 arrests, including Sarah Lazenby, aged 81, a retired social worker from Oxford. 

Perhaps it was Ms Lazenby who I had seen earlier with her tent and briefly mistaken for a homeless Rolling Stones fan.

EX plans two weeks of mayhem in London and other cities around the world.  There will be many arrests, old and young. That can be guaranteed.  The truth, however, is another thing.

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