25 February. 2020
My daughter at the start of the Extinction Rebellion Youth Protest
I am all for raising the profile of living sustainably, as a family of six we consume an awful lot and being aware of the impact we have on the environment is important. My cynical side makes me question what difference our efforts will make. What I mean is that for everyone who recycles, there are a lot more who don’t. I had friends who lived in a new build house, and had a shared area for their bins. They didn’t recycle and had no intention of it because they didn’t want to store their recycling in their own home and said they didn’t have the space. I get it, and yet I don’t. As a couple with six children they were throwing away so much that it seemed to wipe out all my efforts, and I know that they aren’t the only family like it too. It’s frustrating, and yet it does seem to be common, I mean, I can’t remember the last time I bought a plastic bottle, as I always have a refillable one with me, and yet others use so many I wonder if doing my bit really makes that much of a difference.
We recycle all we can, I’m a stickler for it so we have four boxes in our laundry room where we can sort it all out and empty everything each week to be collected. We have also cut down on single use plastic wherever we can, we buy local where we can and I try to think about what we buy so we don’t waste anything unnecessarily. I know we could do more, but there is a balance between being as eco as we can and making sure it is affordable. I’d like to do more, but with four kids, there has to be a limit somewhere!
My daughter is keen to do something too and is a little less inhibited than me. She hasn’t got age and anxiety weighing her down or life experiences which make you see the worst in a situation. So when she wants to do something, I encourage her. I don’t want her to be constrained by my worries, and I want her to experience what she can. As a follower of Extinction Rebellion, I worry that she’ll get drawn into something controversial, but she will admit she doesn’t agree with many of their methods. She’s not daft, or easily led, but even the most peaceful protests can escalate quickly, and I worry that when you get involved in something extreme only the behaviour is seen and the message is lost. People only tend to remember the negative and forget the reason. I want to support her, but I also don’t want her to be involved in something she ends up regretting. Even locally, where we haven’t been affected by some of the bigger protests by Extinction Rebellion, they get a bad press, and seem to be remembered mainly for their disruption than the awareness they bring to the subject.
Recently though, she has been more involved in a youth movement down here in Cornwall, and has watched from the sidelines as they’ve staged a few peaceful protests. This week they, alongside many other groups in other areas decided to stage a Valentines Day Protest. She talked to me about it and I thought it would be a good experience, why not let her go and see, the worst thing is that she wouldn’t want to go again, but at least she wouldn’t always be wondering and feeling she was missing out. So she spoke to her college tutors, we thought it would be best to be honest rather than calling in sick, and they were absolutely fine about it. Most thought it was a good cause and others suggested she should use the time to get photos to contribute towards her final piece. (She’s an art student).
Thursday night was spent making a placard, and on Friday morning I drove her down. It was a little more than twenty five miles and although she was happy to take a bus, I was concerned about where she was going and who she was meeting so I felt better about taking her. I dropped her outside County Hall and she was quickly engulfed by a crowd of other like-minded young people. I shouldn’t have worried and it was good to see. Young people standing up for their planet.
I’m not sure if protesting is the right way to get their message out, but it empowers them. They feel like they are doing something, not sitting idly by and watching everything go down the drain. They are standing up for what they believe in, and I think that’s good. They’re discovering what it sounds like to have a voice, to try and be heard, and what works and doesn’t work. They’re realising that they can’t throw their weight around without repercussions, that they can’t cause chaos without a consequence. At the very least, they are forming friendships with people with similar interests, how can that not be a good thing?
So for now, as long as it stays peaceful, I’m behind it. Hopefully the government will act, and changes that work will be implemented, but I don’t think it’s a quick or easy fix. If everyone does their little bit though, I have hope. I guess that’s what matters.
Thanks for reading!