Sheila Collins, a grandmother and a Christian, was in court earlier this month charged with wilful obstruction of the highway in London in 2019 during a Rebellion. The magistrates were very impressed with her eloquence and the depth of her convictions. Nonetheless, they found her guilty. Here is the powerful statement she read in court.
Yes, I did sit in the road on 7th September. Just before I had witnessed the action of police officers deliberately and violently breaking up the food station. Bowls of vegetables had been chopped , some were cooking. There was no attempt to give time to move the food to safety. That food station represented care and love and life. The desire to feed, to sustain life. The trashing of it in such a brutal way threw into stark relief exactly why we were there. I sat in the road where the food station had been and said evening prayer with some friends.
I am not blaming the police. They were doing their job. But isn’t that the sort of thing we tell ourselves? It has to be this way. This is how we live. We work hard for our comfortable life. Even though it is leading to destruction, even though we are “cutting into our own flesh” as Rowan Williams has said.
I was present at the birth of my youngest grandchild. She was handed to me all wet and bloody from the birth, wrapped in a fluffy white towel. Her eyes were wide open. I was filled with overwhelming love. I whispered to her what a wonderful world she had come into and what a wonderful family she has to care and cherish her. At that moment I realized that maybe the world would not be so wonderful for her. Maybe she would inherit a world of massive problems, scarcity and violence. I vowed then to do all I could to wake up myself and all people to the reality of what we are doing. Sitting in the road took me back to that birth scene, That is why I said “I can see my grandchildren” to the arresting officer.
The Living Planet Report produced by WWF shows an average decline of 68% of all vertebrate species. Until 1970, humanities ecological footprint was smaller than the earth’s capacity for regeneration. To feed and fuel our 21st century lifestyle we are overusing the earth’s biocapacity by at least 56%. Our global stock of natural capital, like plants, soils, minerals, has declined by 40% while “produced capital” like roads buildings etc, has doubled. I heard on the radio that for the first time in history, “produced capital” is now more that “natural capital”. We are taking over the earth and we don’t know what we are destroying.
I have been “walking for water” during lent. 10,000 steps every day for 40 days, in solidarity with those who walk for water every day of their lives. Abdulla who lives in Ethiopia does that. I expect enough money will be raised to provide a well for Abdulla’s village. Yet I am aware that this is not the answer. Ethiopia is suffering drought. Parts also suffer flooding. Extreme weather events are making it impossible for farmers to grow enough food for their families let alone the nation. Hunger is growing, poverty is growing. People are suffering the effects of climate breakdown now. It is not something in the future for them. A basic tenet of my Christian faith tells me to love God, who, I believe, is the ultimate creator of all life, and my neighbor, near and far. I cannot live with integrity and not bring this to the attention of people and government.
I believe I had good reason to sit in the road that day.