On Saturday, at about 12.30pm, I was arrested for obstructing (thoughtfully sitting on) a public highway, namely Lambeth Bridge. I wasn’t alone. In fact, Lambeth wasn’t the only obstructed London bridge: thousands of people of diverse backgrounds and ages occupied five central London bridges for most of 17 November: Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth. I believe that at least 80 other people were arrested.
I am adding my support to Extinction Rebellion – a relatively new activist movement aimed at waking up the political system to the truth about the way that humans are responsible for a dramatic change in the world’s ecosystem. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) published its latest reports in October, which state that human activity is “likely” to push the average global surface temperature above 1.5C between the years 2030 and 2052.
I’m planning on being around for both of these dates, but the problem seems to be that the warmer the planet gets, the faster the pace of climatic changes such as melting ice caps. This changes sea levels and currents, and results in less heat reflection from the lovely white caps – so the temperature goes up. This new heat releases the proverbial “methane dragon” currently partially trapped under the (melting) tundra ice. More frequent climate disasters are already happening across the globe, and these seem set to only increase.
The international art world, to which I’m attached, requires the traffic of heavy art objects all over the globe – the cultural ebb and flow of images and ideas certainly has a huge carbon footprint. So I guess direct action is needed in this area too. And climate is increasingly becoming one of the key subjects for artists as they hold their mirrors up to society.
We can get together to solve this, and every person has a moral imperative to be a part of the movement. Having myself arrested was like laying down a marker; an action that enables a quiet but resonant solidarity with those who want to see our government and the media wake up to the incontrovertible evidence that humans do have to deal with the issue of their effect on the climate … and can this start to happen as soon as possible, please?
• Gavin Turk is an artist