by Conroy Ashton – Member of Extinction Rebellion
My name is Mark, and I’m a member of Extinction Rebellion. It’s an honour to stand here amongst a group of people who share in a powerful dream – the dream of a world free of domination and exploitation through violence. I’d like to offer my thanks and solidarity to the organisers of today’s rally, to Julian Assange, and every brave advocate for truth and peace around the world, to every person who’s suffered the horror of war, and to every person here. It’s this shared vision of peace, born of a shared love for this world and its peoples, that will sustain us through the terrible crises besetting our species.
I spend a lot of time thinking about crisis. As a member of Extinction Rebellion, my focus is on the climate and ecology, on environmental destruction and fossil fuels, rising sea levels and food shortages. Taken together, the various disasters brought about by global heating and environmental destruction represent an unprecedented catastrophe. It’s the only catastrophe on the horizon that truly rivals the current crisis of rapidly escalating militarism in its capacity for the apocalyptic destruction of life on this planet.
And if it that weren’t enough, these two crises are mutually reinforcing. In fact, they have a long association. From the pockmarked, lunar landscapes of Flemish fields in the First World War, to the ravaged jungles of Vietnam, ripped apart by napalm and chemical warfare, war is a tale of environmental destruction.
By the same token, we’ve seen fossil fuel companies and the war machines they own engineer coups in foreign countries, and even stage full-blown invasions in the name of continued profits. Militaries themselves are huge contributors to carbon emissions. The US military alone is the fifth highest emitter in the world, consuming more fuel than many developed nations. Rising sea levels and food shortages already displace millions and will displace billions, driving conflicts over resources to even greater heights. The climate crisis is a tale of war.
And make no mistake – the warmongers know this. The Pentagon has been clear-eyed about the conflict multiplying effect of the climate emergency for decades. That hasn’t stopped them growing their war machine year on year, as they’d rather arm themselves to survive in this brutal world of their own making than do anything to change course and stop it happening.
In a time of crisis, it’s those who do the least to bring about the disaster who suffer first and most. First Nations people around the world, like those of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people on whose stolen land we stand, have been facing war and environmental destruction for centuries. Poor people round the world are routinely stuffed into uniforms and fed into meat grinders, and it’s they who will starve, and burn and drown in the coming environmental catastrophe.
But of course, if you try to speak out against this death machine, the machine will do its best to crush you. Whether its Julian Assange or the activists and advocates being thrown in jail and murdered around the world, including non-violent climate activists imprisoned here in Australia, the forces driving us to war and killing our planet will do whatever they have to to silence us and protect their profits.
But our love for the world is stronger than their greed. We may not have armies, but we have each other – and if there is any hope, it lies in the fact that there’s a lot more of us than there are of them. If we can come together, like we have today on the basis of a shared dream of peace, then we can overcome this brutal system of violence.