Actions

Volunteers wanted: COP interfaith vigil

To pause, to pray, to meditate in the midst of action is a radical act. 

Are you willing to help us build a community that provides space for that radical act? 

A community that models the power of sharing a profound powerful intentional silence in the face of catastrophe? 

Can you help us create spaces that invite people to pause, and ground themselves back into the mystery of the possible ………………… 

We would love you to join in with our quiet but growing murmuration of hope. 

After the success of the Vigil in Parliament Square in September 2020 and building on our shared experience of creating intentional contemplative spaces within spaces of protest we hope to be able to take the Earth Vigil to Glasgow for COP 26 and we would love to gather as many rebels as possible around this idea in order to make it happen.

Current Situation

  • A small group from XR Faith Bridge have been attending the zoom meetings in preparation for COP covering both ‘Camino to COP’ and ‘Earth Vigil’ and so after a number of discussions about where, when, and how, an outline for the Glasgow Vigil has emerged……
  • Glasgow Friends Meeting House has been booked for storage and daily ‘in person’ updates on vigil place and time.
  • A daily vigil space to be created according to the events of the day, needs/focus of actions and protest.
  • Vigil to start on day one of COP (Nov 1st) – explore the possibility of an opening event which could involve invited speakers.
  • Vigil to close with a through the night candlelit presence on the final evening of the conference – establish if evening before final day (Thursday) or end of the final day (Friday)
  • Vigil to have built in flexibility to allow for changes/events/capacity throughout the 12 days.
  • Vigil to have a signal chat and some form of outreach (flyer/QR code)
  • Use existing Faith Bridge Banners and logos.
  • An online Vigil space to be developed and enabled by a parallel Faith Bridge Group

Some of those who will be involved in the Earth Vigil will be out of action for organising from September 5th onwards because of their commitment to Camino to COP.

How to get involved

email hjburnett@msn.com for Glasgow Vigil.

email peter.clare@gmail.com for Online Vigil

Join our next Zoom Meeting at 6pm on Saturday July 17th https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85226408416?pwd=Zkh2Y1p0Tk15ZEFTL2pQekpNcFMyZz09

ID 85226408416

PW Vigil

Protesting at G7: guIlt, worry, big mind and hope

by Kaspa Thompson

four people standing on a stage made from cubes of scaffolding decorated with large colourful squares, on the beach
The stage at Harbour Beach St Ives.

It was Sunday lunchtime. The heat was blazing. I was sitting with half a dozen XR Buddhists in meditation on Smeatons Pier.

Down on the beach below Rob Hopkins (author of ‘From What is to What if’) was giving a talk about imagination and longing. There was a crowd of rebels listening attentively. XR flags occasionally lifted up and flapped in the light breeze.

I was travelling light and hadn’t bought a meditation cushion or bench. For a while I simply sat cross legged on the hard concrete. Then my back started to ache. I tried taking off my shoes and using them as a cushion. That didn’t help my back at all and my bare feet pressed up against the rough surface of the pier. Then I thought ‘Is my head burning?’, glancing down at the time on my phone and wondering how far through the meditation time we were.

Despite all of this physical discomfort, this was one of the most peaceful and settled experiences throughout my weekend. Despite how few people were looking up at this row of XR Buddhists, or walking by us on the pier, for me this was one of the most significant actions.

There was something very powerful about finding some of what Suzuki Roshi called Big Mind in the middle of, on the one hand, a noisy crowded weekend of protests, and on the other a keen awareness of the suffering that the climate crisis has caused and will continue to cause.

That weekend I had witnessed the prayers and intention setting of the opening ceremony, marched with a thousand others through the streets of St. Ives, waved off the march through Falmouth and spent a decent chunk of time wandering around in the heat with a group of rebels looking for the best place to stage a theatrical action that didn’t happen. I sang with the song-holders, chatted with other rebels and kept an eye on social media and the news for photos and stories of all the actions that I missed, from Ocean Rebellion’s dawn mermaid action to Surfers Against Sewage’s paddle out for the planet. I found time for hanging out with friends on the beach, for sitting in the park with the dogs, and for more than one ice-cream. I watched Satya cover herself with a sheet and become a corpse for the XR Doctors’ action.

a crowd of protestors sitting in the road. Some demonstrators are carrying a large paper mache globe
Extinction rebellion march in protest at business and government ‘greenwashing’ polices, G7 summit, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK

I spent the following week at home noticing guilt, shame and powerlessness washing around inside me. Had any of this made any difference, I wondered? Had I done as much as others? It’s easy for me to feel responsible for the whole of the climate crisis. Of course that’s not true, but I wonder what purpose that belief serves?

I have heard a distinction made between useful suffering and useless suffering. Useful suffering is the unavoidable suffering that is grist to the mill for practice and leads to fellow-feeling and compassion. This is birth, sickness, old-age, death etc. Useless suffering is the creation of a mind trying to avoid ‘useful’ suffering. It is unhelpful beliefs about ourselves and the world: this shouldn’t happen to me; I’m this sort of person, or that sort of person; or – like me in Cornwall – it’s my job to fix it all.

It is helpful to think of two kinds of suffering, but in my experience both types of suffering (suffering in the world and in our minds) are inevitable and both, if approached in the right way, can be a pointer towards love. We all suffer with birth, sickness etc. and we all create belief systems that don’t serve us.

If we can notice this in a loving way, with some kindness and spaciousness, we discover something about the human condition.  Feeling tender towards our body/mind and their troubles, we begin to feel tender towards the body/mind of others.

This kind of attention brings wisdom. When I get curious about this habit of taking responsibility for all, I discover a couple of things. This habit has good intentions but mistaken beliefs: if I do a good job of being the responsible one I won’t get into trouble. Maybe that was true at one time, but it isn’t true now. I also discover that it keeps me away from paying closer attention to the real harm that I cause (through my carbon footprint etc.). In this role this habit again has good intentions but a mistaken belief: I’ll keep Kaspa safe by keeping him away from these truths, otherwise he will be overwhelmed by shame and guilt. Ironically it serves this purpose by using one dose of shame and guilt to avoid a different one.

As I maintain a loving attitude through this investigation, the habits reveal these truths to me, and they begin to relax and let go. In the light of loving kindness and wisdom the delusion begins to dissolve.

As these habits loosen their grip, really useful questions appear: are there ways in which my actions cause harm? Are there things I can change in response to seeing that? And where is the best place to put my energy, being the kind of person I am, in the crisis we are all facing?

The weekend following the Cornwall actions I co-led a mindful walk on the hills and took part in two XR Buddhist events: a debrief for the G7 actions and a mantra chanting session. Through spending time in those spaces I was reminded again that it is Buddhist practice alongside activism that is the most meaningful to me, and the place where I can best make a contribution. 

I am reminded again of that moment on the pier, when I experienced a deep sense of peace and a knowing both that this was a significant action and that regardless of the impact there is always something to take refuge in: Buddha, the Pure Land, Nirvana, emptiness. The love and wisdom we find there is unconditional: we are welcome there, and it does not depend on anything in the world for its existence.

In actions like this I am given a glimpse of the completion of the Bodhisattva vow (to save all beings) and of the Bodhichitta (the heart of awakening).  Often we think of activism and practice as separate: we act, and then we return to practice to digest the action, and then we act again and then we return to practice and so on.

When our hearts are awakened we naturally make an appropriate response to whatever we find. In the Buddha wisdom, compassion and action arise spontaneously, together and without selfish calculation. Usually our activism and our Buddhist practice support one another. Ultimately they become the same thing.

Often the form of XR Buddhists’ actions reflect this understanding, as we meditate in the road, or in a bank, or whilst winding our way through a busy protest in walking meditation.

Recalling that useful question: where is the best place to put my energy? I find the answer here. I am called to create the conditions for this kind of activism and for this kind of practice: where a deep care for the earth and Buddhist practice and taking action come together.

As to the effectiveness of our actions? On the one hand we are encouraged to let go of results, and I bring to mind how profound and meaningful these actions are in the moment of acting and trust that that is enough, and on the other hand I look back over the past three years since the foundation of Extinction Rebellion and see how far the national conversation on the climate crisis has moved and I am given some hope.

Kaspa Thompson is currently co-coordinator of XR Buddhists. He is a Buddhist teacher at Bright Earth Buddhist Temple, and a psychotherapist.

Protest Outside First Ever Barclays BANK

On Friday 25th June at approximately 12.30pm members of Extinction Rebellion Buddhists conducted a walking meditation to the beat of a slow drum to Barclays Bank at 19 Fleet Street, the first Barclays to be opened in the UK. They sat in meditation across the front of the Bank wearing placards reading ‘Barclays the Ecocide Bank.’ The protest was to highlight the bank’s unrelenting high investment in fossil fuel projects.

A man with a large red drum on his hip, with his arm raised holding the drumstick.
Les drums to accompany the walking meditation photo by Lou Graphy

Despite its stated commitment [1]  to reduce its lending to move to net zero emissions by 2050, Barclays has actually increased their lending to fossil fuels projects last year [2]

Barclays has invested almost $145bn in fossil fuel industries since the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015. Barclays is the biggest investor in fossil fuel projects of any bank in Europe and seventh biggest in the world. The bank’s investments are also impacting indigenous communities in the USA and elsewhere, and increasing deforestation. [3]

a line of people wearing black, wearing signs which read 'Barclays the Ecocide Bank', and 'In Love and Grief for the Earth'.
XR Buddhists walking meditation to Barclays, photo by Lou Graphy

A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion Buddhists UK said:

‘We are targeting the first Barclays bank to be opened in the UK. It is a lovely building but unfortunately the history of its investments is not so lovely. From its funding of the apartheid regime in the 1960s, to its current continuing funding of destructive coal, oil and gas projects across the planet it continues to be a destructive force in the financial world. And this is despite the clear scientific evidence of the imminent dangers of its investments and its pledge to be a net zero bank by 2050. XR Buddhists are engaging in a peaceful meditation action today. In bringing our faith tradition to the front lines of activism we embody a peaceful determination to protect our one precious Earth and all of life. We hold the staff of Barclays in our hearts also; they are also going to be impacted by climate breakdown. But as a company we consider Barclays to be acting in a way that meets the definition of the crime of ecocide, recently published by the Ecocide Foundation.’

In the last few days the crime of Ecocide has been formulated by an independent expert panel comprising twelve lawyers from around the world. They are proposing that the crime of  Ecocide be added to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This would make it a criminal offence to commit: unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts. [4] 

  • Three people sitting outside Barclays. There is a banner reading XR Buddhists on the ground.
  • A person sitting in meditation inside the bank
  • A person sitting in meditation inside the bank
  • A line of people in walking meditation. The person at the front holds a sign reading Barclays the Ecocide Bank.

There are almost a quarter of a million Buddhists in the UK: a growing number are becoming concerned about the impacts that humans are having on the climate and on other living beings.  Recently, the Dalai Lama joined 100 other Nobel Prize laureates to call for action on climate change.  The letter stated “Climate change is threatening hundreds of millions of lives, livelihoods across every continent, and is putting thousands of species at risk. The burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—is by far the major contributor to climate change [5]”.

Contact:

For further information on Extinction Rebellion Buddhists, for photos or interviews please contact us via email at: info@xrbuddhists.com or 07532 383676

Notes

[1] seeOur ambition to be a net zero bank by 2050’ March 2020

https://home.barclays/society/our-position-on-climate-change/

[2] ‘Barclays has increased its financing of fossil fuel firms despite setting a ‘net zero’ goal for itself earlier this year following investor pressure, according to a new report.’ 

https://www.cityam.com/barclays-fossil-fuel-financing-increases-despite-net-zero-pledge/

[3] Banking on Climate Chaos Rainforest Action Network

https://www.ran.org/bankingonclimatechaos2021/

[4] For more details see The Stop Ecocide Foundation:
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5ca2608ab914493c64ef1f6d/t/60d1e6e604fae2201d03407f/1624368879048/SE+Foundation+Commentary+and+core+text+rev+6.pdf

[5] Dalai Lama Joins Nobel Laureates in Earth Day Appeal to Eliminate Fossil Fuels

https://www.buddhistdoor.net/news/dalai-lama-joins-nobel-laureates-in-earth-day-appeal-to-eliminate-fossil-fuels

Sitting alone in the road

XR Buddhist Satya was one of hundreds of rebels who chose to sit alone in a road today, to highlight how afraid they are of the consequences of not acting urgently enough in the face of the climate crisis.

Satya writes: After weeks of preparation, anxiety grabbing me in the stomach whenever I imagined this moment, I felt calm as I walked into the road this morning and stopped the traffic.

I had no support from the public. The boy who mocked me. The old woman who muttered obscenities at me. The man who drove his car within a centimetre of me and then rolled down his window to hiss in my face, ‘dumb bitch’. I get it – I was the crazy lady, stopping them from getting where they needed to go. Ranting about apocalyptic futures. What does any of it have to do with them? How dare I?

I don’t need people to like what I’m doing. I need them to open their hearts – just a tiny crack – to the true horrors of the climate and ecological emergency. We won’t reach everyone. But maybe one member of the public wondered why I would be desperate enough to do such a thing. Maybe one parent thought about their daughter’s future. Maybe you, reading this, will take action of your own.

Today hundreds of us across the UK were alone together as we blocked busy roads, our hearts pounding. We will keep raising the alarm, until the truth is told and until urgent action is taken. We refuse to be by-standers. We will SPEAK UP.

Local Press: The action received good local press in Worcester. See photos of other rebels in Worcester, and read their quotes in the Worcester News.

Satya sitting in the middle of a road, wearing a sign that says I am terrified of starving people resorting to violence because of the climate crisis
Satya sitting in the road in Worcester
A police officer pulls Satya out of the road by one arm, Satya is lying half in and half our of the road
Being pulled out of the road

Okavango Delta Action 22nd April 2021

Extinction Rebellion UK, XR Families, XR Buddhists, in cooperation with Extinction Rebellion Africa and Namibian and Canadian Activists organise peaceful protest Earth Day action to Canadian High Commission, Trafalgar Square (London), to demand Canada, home of ReconAfrica, and other members of the G7 (the company trades and has offices in 4 of those 7 countries) stop this project, all new oil exploration, criminalise ecocide and fund alternatives for countries like Namibia and Botswana to whom a climate debt is owed.

Thanks to Joao Daniel Pereira for the photos. If you are inspired by these photos please sign this letter.

London, UK. April 21st, 2021. Extinction Rebellion families gather in front of the High Commission of Canada to protest against the drilling of the Okavango Delta for oil by the company Recon. Credit: Joao Daniel Pereira.
London, UK. April 21st, 2021. Extinction Rebellion families gather in front of the High Commission of Canada to protest against the drilling of the Okavango Delta for oil by the company Recon. Credit: Joao Daniel Pereira.
London, UK. April 21st, 2021. Extinction Rebellion families gather in front of the High Commission of Canada to protest against the drilling of the Okavango Delta for oil by the company Recon. Credit: Joao Daniel Pereira.
London, UK. April 21st, 2021. Extinction Rebellion families gather in front of the High Commission of Canada to protest against the drilling of the Okavango Delta for oil by the company Recon. Credit: Joao Daniel Pereira.
London, UK. April 21st, 2021. Extinction Rebellion families gather in front of the High Commission of Canada to protest against the drilling of the Okavango Delta for oil by the company Recon. Credit: Joao Daniel Pereira.
London, UK. April 21st, 2021. Extinction Rebellion families gather in front of the High Commission of Canada to protest against the drilling of the Okavango Delta for oil by the company Recon. Credit: Joao Daniel Pereira.
London, UK. April 21st, 2021. Extinction Rebellion families gather in front of the High Commission of Canada to protest against the drilling of the Okavango Delta for oil by the company Recon. Credit: Joao Daniel Pereira.

Protest at the Namibian High Commission in London against ReconAfrica oil drilling licences in Namibia and Botswana

Male activist in a blue jumper, outside a building with black railings. He holds up a sign which says 'No Drill, No Kill, in the Okavango'.

22 March 2021: Protesters including XR Buddhists Nick Clarke and Zoe Solomans outside the Namibian High Commission in London highlighting the risks posed by oil drilling licences granted to Canadian oil company ReconAfrica. 

Licences for oil exploration (with a 25 year licence for oil production if oil is discovered) cover an area of approximately 35,000 sq kms of which about 25,0000 are in Namibia. In total this is an area larger than the size of Holland! The boundary of the licenced areas include the main river flowing into the Okavango Delta which it abuts for about 270 kms and up to the edge of the Delta. The Delta is an oasis in the middle of the Kalahari desert, so large it can be seen from space and home to the largest remaining wildlife populations in Africa and a UNESCO world heritage site. It also remains the home of the San people, so ancient that all modern humans can trace their DNA to them. All of this is under threat from the inevitable pollution from oil drilling.

Drilling is being conducted by a Canadian company, ReconAfrica. A number of its chief officers have a background in fracking, from its founder Craig Steinke and including its VP of Drilling (who pioneered fracking in the US) and its current CEO. The company believes there are 125 billion barrels of oil in the region. If burnt that would release 1/6th of the worlds remaining carbon budget!

An activist in a blue coat knocks on the door of an old expensive building to deliver a letter.

This is a project of such insanity it is hard to find the right words. All of these plans were under the radar until drilling began this year. However the world is waking up. 

Activists in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Germany and Canada are challenging these plans. In the UK we are linked to them and are uniting under the banner of ReConOut! This network includes people within XR (with a strong XR Buddhist and faith flavour) and from the region. ReConOut were at the Namibian High Commission to present a letter to the Namibian High Commissioner, HE Linda Scott describing their concerns. You can find a link to this letter below. 

At this action Nick Clarke said: “Today is World Water Day and I am joining with activists across the globe highlighting threats to water systems. The Okavango Delta is a jewel of biodiversity, its value is beyond all measure and its waters sustain the livelihoods of more than a million people. Oil exploration inevitably risks polluting the Delta. If we were to burn the amount of oil ReconAfrica believes is there it will contribute to catastrophic levels of climate change risking billions of deaths and the collapse of our human societies. In solidarity with activists in Namibia, Botswana and Canada and indigenous peoples of the region I am imploring the Namibian government to think again and look for sustainable alternatives to meet its economic and energy needs. We understand this would come at a cost and we demand industrialised countries support Namibia to fund these alternatives.”

Two activists, one in a wheelchair, hold up a sign which says 'No oil drilling in the Okavango #reconout'.

Moving forward the network will be focussing on G7 leaders as they meet in Cornwall in early June. These G7 talks will include much on climate change and plans for the COP climate talks in Glasgow in November. ReconAfrica has corporate links with the US, Canada, Germany and the UK. The failure of industrialised countries to regulate their companies, to allow further oil exploration at home and globally, to not meet their commitments to fund alternatives to fossil fuels for countries in the global south to meet their energy and economic needs and the UK cancellation of much of its overseas aid… these and others are all issues it will be demanding leaders address. The Drilling in the watershed of the Okavango Delta needs to be urgently stopped: it is profiting shareholders in the global North and the wealth of a small company above the lives of millions in the short term and all of life in the future and sacrificing a priceless pristine ecosystem. In challenging this project we can also show how it exemplifies so many issues that must be addressed globally.

ReConOut will be starting with actions in April and May, building momentum towards the G7 talks and then on to COP.

To receive updates and get involved please sign up here: http://bitly.ws/cemz or email ReConOut@pm.me

#moneyrebellion

photo of Barclarys Stop Funding Ecocide banner

XR Buddhists from across the UK yesterday took part in Extinction Rebellion’s Money Rebellion.

Despite the worsening climate & extinction crisis, banks continue to invest massively in fossil fuels. The money rebellion is to raise awareness and to put pressure on banks to defund fossil fuel and other harmful investments. One of the main targets was Barclays bank, who have invested $145 billion in fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Find out how your own bank is doing here: https://switchit.money/

Nick and Patrick meditate in Barclary bank. 'Nick is wearing a sign that reads $145 Billion invested in fossil fules since 2015.. criminal.' Patrick is wearing a sign that says 'Barclarys the ecocide bank'
Nick and Patrick meditating in a Barclays highstreet branch
Three people meditating outside a Barclays bank in Cambridge. They have pasted lots of 'the ecocide bank' posters to the windows and have signs and banners including: Stop Ecocide funding, clean up properly divest now and stop funding fossil fuel.
XR Buddhists meditating outside Cambridge Barclays
Joe meditating inside a Barclays
XR Buddhist Joe is being carried out of the bank by two police officers.
Joe being removed by police
three meditators sit in front of some wide concrete steps wearing signs saying 'infinite growth finite planet' and listing high-street banks investment in fossil fuel in billions on dollars in 2020.
Satya. Mel and Kaspa demonstrating in Malvern
Placards reading Infinite Growth, Finite Planet, and Your Bank Funds the Climate Crisis.
Signs used in the Malvern demonstration
a person sits outside a Barclays bank, near and ATM, wearing an Barclays the Ecocide Bank placard.
Meditating outside a Barclays brank branch
two XR rebels hold a green banner with the words: the planet needs a Barclays bank holiday