Reflecting on the train action: listening and learning

Ruth Jarman writes as a member of CCA who was part of the Extinction Rebellion train action, reflecting on her thoughts and feelings about a divisive action:

This is not the first time that we have carried out actions on railways. A similar action in April seemed to contribute well to the movement. However, this one on Thursday and particularly the one at Canning Town brought understandable levels of upset and anger in an overt and disturbing way. In all honesty I wanted to get up and leave. It makes me feel awful thinking of the upset to their already difficult lives people experience and I apologise to every person who was disadvantaged by the action – especially those who were harmed trying to intervene and those for whom our action sparked violence.

Our aim in stopping the train was to raise the alarm about just how serious and urgent the current drift to runaway climate breakdown is. This time last year, the head of the UN gave us until 2020 to change course or face runaway climate change. We wanted to highlight the utter disruption that this climate breakdown will cause – to aspects such as food, energy, water supply and transport like the Tube which is particularly sensitive to flooding and global heating.

The disruption we caused became a small act of uncomfortable prophecy – foreshadowing the massive disruption and social upheaval that climate meltdown will bring. We have grown to expect our food, energy, water supply and transport systems to run like clockwork. Our action highlighted how terribly vulnerable we are when they don’t.

Our choice of the DLR line was to emphasise the connection to high greenhouse gas emissions and The City. This is because bank financing for fossil fuels has increased each year since the Paris Agreement and in 2018 Banks spent $654 billion financing the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. However, I appreciate that this message was largely lost.

I personally was in two minds about taking part in the action in the lead up and made the decision to take part late the night before. I apologise to anyone who thinks that I made the wrong decision in that moment. My intention now, as with every action, is to reflect with others and learn together how to go forward. Only God knows whether this action was helpful in the long run. I hope and pray that it will be used for God’s purposes.

8 thoughts on “Reflecting on the train action: listening and learning

  1. mchampagnie says:

    I think XR is losing public sympathy & interest. Lots of people do agree with the aims and objectives, and feel helpless about the climate emergency. But is annoying ordinary Londoners useful?

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  2. Jonathan Essex says:

    Ruth, thanks for writing this. For me this shows just how hard it is to confront the notion that climate change “won’t really change that much” .

    But it changes everything – so what will we do and how will we do it? I hope that the Extinction Rebellion actions have finally bought this issue forward. So instead of asking ‘if’ we are experiencing climate breakdown or ‘why’, we start asking ‘how’ we are doing enough, together, to change.

    I woke up this morning with a strong memory of a dream. That at school we are taught how to learn. But not how to love each other or the changes needed to arrest climate breakdown.

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  3. Pini C. says:

    If the platform was full of suits people would’ve been sympathetic. All you had to do was choose different stations (e.g., Canary Wharf or Knightsbridge) & go in when the suits commute, which, depending on location, is from between 0730 to 0815. Why go after working class people? Think through your actions and also if democracy is to mean anything you need to respect democratic decisions because it seems the overwhelming majority of XR activists voted against on Telegram

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  4. Elaine F. says:

    Thank you for writing Ruth.
    I may not have agreed with your final decision to take the action, but I thank you for your courage and know that you were expressing your concern and care in the way that you felt best.
    Sending you love, blessings, pax et bonum!

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  5. Falsum says:

    Please just leave public transit alone in all future actions. Focus on the rich motorists and frequent-filers who are the biggest contributors to the problem. And try to make amends and forge alliances with the working-class people who were trying to board that train.

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  6. Eloise says:

    Bless you ; it was going to be an hour or so disruption on one October morning (not uncommon on the tube) and nothing in the context of what we will all face with climate breakdown; what you did was extremely brave and the intent was selfless; if you had picked a different tube station this action might well be being celebrated right now.
    This action highlighted the reality of what social collapse might look like as it will effect the poorest communities first.
    When the tube is disrupted for other reasons there isn’t this level of violence . I think also this is a sign that the message is getting through; people living with high stress cannot cope with the sheer stress of climate breakdown on top of everything else. Sadly it was a classic case of ‘shoot the messenger’.

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