Andy Ross was arrested during the October 2019 Rebellion and charged with obstructing the highway. He had a court case on 24th March 2021, which he attended virtually. Below is a powerful statement he read to the court.
I have an MSc in Sustainable Food and Natural resources and my job is assessing the transition of companies to a low-carbon world. As such I have a front row seat to the inaction which characterises humanity’s response to the unfolding disaster of climate and ecological breakdown.
I am here because I wilfully obstructed the free passage along Millbank. I was not on Lambeth bridge.
I self-represent. I know little of the legal process. No doubt I will be found guilty of breaking small laws.
I am a conscientious protector of the earth. On 7th October 2019 I wedged myself into the corner of a small wooden box in the middle of the road. No ordinary wooden box but part of an Ark. An Ark – “something that affords protection and safety.” No protection and safety that day. An Ark – symbolic of life being preserved through catastrophe. An Ark – a place of refuge on the ever-rising seas. An Ark – something like the incredible planet we live on. We live on an Ark and I wedged myself into that small wooden box to try and save that same wonderful, life sustaining planet that we all rely on for almost every need. What person of faith, of spirit, of love, would voluntarily leave such a powerful symbol of everything that the earth is and everything we stand to lose if we do not protect it.
I was on Millbank with Extinction Rebellion and Christian Climate Action. The name Extinction Rebellion says it all. Extinction is happening now, every day, everywhere. And we’re rebelling to try and stop it. Extinction is final and irrevocable. Once they’re gone they’re not coming back. This is an existential crisis for many species.
The voice of urgency is unheard in our political discourse and so those of us who have heard and understand the seriousness of the threats to the natural world and therefore to human life, are called to do what we can. When is the situation urgent enough to break the law? I was on Millbank because the situation is beyond urgent. In the situation we face winning slowly is the same as losing. If you read enough climate science there are words you will hear frequently: Catastrophic; Irreversible; severe; existential; tipping points. There are many, many points of no return which humanity is passing and which will determine the future survival of humans and other species. Some examples:
- We are already experiencing one degree of warming. With the momentum in the global climate system combined with the inertia in our economic and social systems we are probably locked into another one degree of warming. This takes us to 2 degrees. At 2 degrees 99% of coral reefs will die. Irreversibility means just that.
- 95% of fish have been killed by humans. If 95% is not enough to justify breaking small laws what percentage is? 96%? Or must it be 97%. Is 98% enough?
- The Arctic icecap is melting and will soon be gone. This is an example of a tipping point. Once the icecap tips into a new state it will be impossible to return to the old one. Without this thermostat sitting atop the world we face significant and irreversible changes to our climate.
- The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that approximately 75 percent of Earth’s plant genetic resources are now extinct, and another third of plant biodiversity is expected to disappear by 2050. Up to 100,000 plant varieties are currently endangered worldwide.
I rebel to speak up for those with no voice such as coral reefs and fish. These reefs, a unique and wonderful habitat, will die soon. Our laws do not adequately protect them, these voiceless ones, and so some of us are compelled to break those laws for the overlooked to be heard.
Hans Bruyninckx, executive director of the European Environment Agency warned “We’ve reached the limit of what can be achieved by small cuts – gradual means, by making efficiencies and small cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, with “transformational” change now necessary to stave off the impacts of global heating and environmental collapse”
Mine was not the criminal act. The criminal acts are the cars which drive over that spot on Millbank all day, every day. The politicians who sit inactive and complicit metres from that spot every day. The corporations headquartered in London that put money before life every day.
History is understood backwards and will vindicate those of us who broke small, insignificant laws in pursuit of real justice, obeying higher laws. If the state choses to find me guilty know that I was standing with those the state does not recognise, does not protect, does not care about and does not consider.
Biologist EO Wilson talks of the Eremocene – the Age of Loneliness – the age which we are entering. That is why I obstructed a road for a few short minutes. Because the thought of condemning my own children and future generations to the Age of Loneliness due to the inactivity of my generation is too much to bear.
Andy was found guilty of obstructing the highway and given a conditional discharge of nine months and a fine of £300.