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Inside a Fossil Fools Day action with a “newbie”
Stepping out of line
Surrounded by kit, I sit facing my friends, cheeks burning so red that they suggest I am overtired. I shake my head, avoid eye contact, unsure how to admit my feelings.
Finally I break, tension flooding out: “I don’t feel prepared; I don’t think I can do it….” I was terrified our actions would be too extreme, that people wouldn’t relate to us…. So many paralysing thoughts.
This is what it’s like when you cease to keep your head down; these are the agonies you experience when you decide to take direct action.
That night my friends ask whether I really didn’t believe in standing up against mining and burning coal, didn’t believe we’d get our message across.
Wasn’t the real issue the struggle to break free of the conditioning that keeps us all in line? A few hours later I was scaling a tall mine building, doubts on hold. It was more than pure adrenaline, though.
Throughout the day, unfurling our banner, challenged by staff, questioned by police, photographed and finally escorted from site, I maintained a smile.
The support and solidarity of my friends and the justice of our cause gave me the strength and the certainty.
Clearly I am not a hardened activist (actually, none of us were).
Never before have I been motivated to protest this way. I always had other priorities and somehow presumed other people were acting on my behalf.
But reading about the Ffos-y-Frân open-cast coal mine changed things. Maybe it was the coincidence with the Bali talks on climate change (December 2007) that made me realise that all the political talk was just talk.
Despite repeated acknowledgements of a crisis, it was business as usual, another open-cast mine in Wales; it didn’t compute, and it broke my heart.
To think of it now I am almost ashamed of my naïveté.
I still believe in society’s capacity to find workable solutions. But I no longer believe we can get there by closing our eyes and leaving it to governments or mystical others.
Coal is touted as a source of investment and local jobs but why not green energy projects instead? Clean-coal technology is a contrived fantasy.
It is disingenuous and immoral to pretend we do not understand the implications of burning coal. For me, that means taking nonviolent direct action is imperative.
Standing up for climate justice means stepping out of line.