An open letter on Covid-19 from Extinction Rebellion Scotland

 Hello friends,

Like everyone else, we have been trying to take some time just to pause, reflect, and prioritise the care of our families and loved ones during these past few scary weeks. We want now to reach out to our communities across Scotland and elsewhere to let you know that we stand, as always, with and for you in these difficult times. For anyone who needs us, from shopping to friendly chats, please reach out to your local group and we will help wherever we can.

Our movement is a movement founded in love: love for the people, and love for the planet which sustains us. From the get-go, our rebellion has placed a strong focus on a regenerative culture of mutual support and care as a way out of the climate and ecological emergency. Now, more than ever, it is clear that this culture of care is fundamental to the functioning of society as a whole and it must be nourished, rather than neglected or side-lined as it has been for some time.

Despite this neglect, during the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen an uplifting and vigorous effort by the public to rebalance the scales. Many of us have come forward to help our neighbours and communities, mutual aid groups have popped up all around the country, people have lined the streets to clap for service workers, drawn rainbows of hope in their windows, and we’ve come together to volunteer in our masses.

However, even with the few silver linings that have emerged from this pandemic  – not least this renewed sense of community appreciation or the possibility of witnessing the largest ever annual fall in CO2[1]  – we remain deeply concerned about the temporary nature of these positives. We grieve the struggle and loss this has put many through and fear the persistent rhetoric of “getting back to normal”.

“Normal” was a crisis. It is not normal that just last year we watched fires devastate lands in Australia, Siberia, the Amazon, and the Congo. It is not normal that in 2017 emissions of PM2.5 (just one of the deadly emissions toxins) killed 354 people in Glasgow, 157 in Edinburgh, 63 in Aberdeen, and 55 in Dundee[2], and outdoor air pollution the previous year killed 4.2 million worldwide[3]. It is not normal that species have decreased in abundance by 49% in Scotland nor that the UK stands to lose one in four species to extinction[4].

In many ways Covid-19 is no different from these tragedies. It too has sorely reminded us that we belong to a bigger ecosystem and we rely on the healthy functioning of all its equal parts for survival. As recent research has shown, people in polluted areas are far more likely to die from Covid-19 than those living with cleaner air[5]. One US study has found that a small increase in particle pollution last year is associated with a 15% increase in the Covid-19 death rate[6] and another that 78% of the coronavirus deaths across Italy, Spain, France, and Germany occurred in those countries’ most polluted regions[7]. Equally, leading scientists recently affirmed that it is almost always destructive human behaviour towards the environment that causes unknown diseases to transmit from animals to humans[8].

For many of us, this is the first time we have seen how quickly societal collapse can happen and how fast everything can change. Yet, scientists have warned of similar crises posed by the existential threat of the climate and ecological emergency over and over again since the 1990s. Last year, over 11,000 scientists reinforced this alarm with a ‘World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency’[9]. In times of crisis author Naomi Klein warns us of the all-too-common brutal political tactic of using public disorientation following a collective shock or crisis to push through radical pro-corporate measures, which necessarily ensure further catastrophic crises. However, Klein also stresses that crises present us with unique opportunities to remake society for the greater good and they do so because they expose the many shortcomings in our current system, offering us a way forward.

The UK government has shown us almost overnight that it has the funds and people power necessary to implement strong social change, pouring over £330 billion into the economy to prop up a failing system – roughly the financial cost of completely decarbonizing Britain’s heat infrastructure[10]. It is now plain to see, with absolute certainty, that austerity, cuts to social care, and inaction on the climate and ecological emergency were not economically necessary measures but simply politically motivated forms of profiteering.

This is why we must reject calls to “return to normal”. Normal was a crisis of care and Covid-19 has exposed this. We must transition into an economy that does not neglect but prioritizes care and protects life everywhere.

From inside our homes the rebellion continues as we are reminded what we are rebelling for – a thriving and just world of regenerative cultures of care that can weather crises, foster cooperation and look after each other on a global scale. Join our online regenerative rebellion: we have a programme of events including webinars, trainings, workshops, and listening spaces. Business as usual must no longer be an option.

Caring for the planet is caring for each other.

Love Always, 

Extinction Rebellion Scotland