I grew up with a mum fiercely passionate about the state of the planet, and with what seemed like the weight of the world on her shoulders she would yell “We’re all fucked”. I was always a wide-eyed listener and found myself overwhelmed and deeply afraid. But I wasn’t angry – from where I was looking there seemed to be nothing or no-one to get angry at. Instead, I stayed for a while in state of cosmic confusion. How could it possibly be, that I was alive at such a particularly inexplicable point in the history of planet earth? (..let alone just to be alive at all). It seemed to be a paradoxical point: the world at once immeasurable and expansive, and at the same time, all at arm’s length… The internet projecting images that make distant places feel familiar, food once rooted in soil that lays on an entirely separate geological plate, and on the bus and in the street the faces and foreign languages bring to touch the tangible distances of the earth.
And, growing up in a city perpetually in construction and forever expanding in populace, this oscillation between proximity and distance was felt viscerally. Engulfed by brick, glass and concrete, and washed away by the human biowaves. I had the very distinct feeling that in relation to all that was out there, I was so small I might as well be invisible.
Then again… I wasn’t invisible to myself. And at a certain point I knew that the food on my plate, which had had contact with another geographical plate, also carried a carbon weight; I knew that each London banana was stickered with oil. At that point I became acutely aware that I did in fact have someone to be angry at – myself. At that point in my life I realised that to live like the people around me, made me into an involuntary bystander in the war I could only imagine. A war on the air, a war on the sea, a war on the human and non-human creatures, a war on the earth. But anger directed at the self becomes guilt. And guilt is not empowering, it is dilapidating. What if I left no carbon footstep? Would I then escape the war?
What I later came to realise is that, in directing my anger inward in the form of guilt, I had subconsciously reduced myself to the singular status of “consumer”: a mere tool of the global capitalist system. I also realised that not only did the self-policing leave me dilapidated, more importantly, it left the system to carry on “business as usual” (only this time with an almost invisible alteration). It wasn’t until I joined my first civil-disobedience action that I began to believe in my small body not as a carbon sink but as a site of significant resistance. I saw the possibilities contained in my living flesh and bones, to block and disrupt that same system in power, which reduced all life to the status of tool. I began learning about climate justice; From the Chipko Movement in India, to the Standing Rock protests in North America, I read of indigenous peoples who have seen and felt the war in ways I can only imagine. Those who for generations have been fighting fire with water, defending life from the oppressive powers of the colonial system. This time my anger was redirected outwards. Who holds the power? Who maintains the systems? And how can I stop them?
So, I guess my point is that: yes… we will all be fucked, if the system that is systematically colonising and exterminating is left to run. But, when you use your body as a site of resistance you are no longer a bystander in an imaginary war, you are no longer a tool to the fucked-up system, but stand in alliance with those of whom the war is in very clear sight.