Extinction and Establishment

Photo by me.

Leading British Medical journal, The Lancet, going strong as a traditional peer-reviewed publication since 1823, tweeted this today…

The statement is astonishing in three ways. The Lancet’s editorial team must be accepting of XR’s peaceful, though criminally disruptive actions, as legitimate. In turn, they confirm the world’s governments are indeed criminal in their failure to tackle the planetary crisis. Lastly, they openly encourage all health workers towards direct action.

More. In the detail of the text, Richard Horton as editor in chief, addresses another public scientific establishment, The Royal Society no less, and seemingly with some disdain.

“…the Royal Society’s actions are empty of passion, devoid of campaigning, and seemingly disengaged from politics.”

The Royal Society, also the seat of the UK’s national Academy of Sciences, was founded in the 1600s as a select establishment of natural philosophers and academics. They communed in developing the scientific method, but eventually earned Royal Charter by Charles II, and were accepted as influencers, as such, by the State. As in science, minded towards caution until general consensus is reached, The Royal Society has always been a conservative organisation, acting mainly as arbiter between differing scientific views and members. Today, it continues to promote its members to the outside world, though funded largely by the Department for Business and Innovation.

Make of that what you will.

Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Science in Britain has instead largely become a fully-owned subsidiary of Economic Growth Inc, with most if not all university funding bids dependent on the ability to prove commercial opportunity or at least a contribution to GDP. Couple this with Universities openly courting the patronage of corporations, and the whole process of ‘science’ seems a bit of a profit-seeking stitch-up. This isn’t new, I realise, but science is certainly more cost-dependent as the price of new lab equipment and precision machinery has rocketed, along with the necessary information technology.

As if this wasn’t enough of a deterrent to upset any (expensive) apple carts, modern science and scientists deliberately distance themselves from emotions for the sake of warding off cognitive bias in their work. Fair enough, in so far as the work is concerned. But in cultivating the ethic, they have cut away something fundamental about being human, at least in public!

Some scientists are beginning to question the narrow version of their study, and are indeed calling for both an injection of imagination and a humility towards indigenous understanding. The very essence of an opposing conservative scientific outlook threatens the radical change required if our recognisable biosphere is not to be lost in a hurry.

Can the establishment ever turn the tide? Horton rightly calls the Royal Society out. But there are other institutions of critical importance to question. At what point, for instance, will the Judiciary itself turn at least a shade of green?

Priti Patel is (unbelievably) Secretary of State at the Home Office right now. This is the woman that wants to bring a steel fist to the prison system and with a strong whiff of retribution about her, it has to be said. As far as Extinction Rebellion is concerned, I fully expect she has briefed the Metropolitan Police to be steely in hand with protestors, no matter their race, age or disability.

I volunteer for an independent body working in the courts to help witnesses through the traumatic experience of trial days. I cannot attend Extinction Rebellion because, if arrested and convicted, I would not be able to help others who come to court, and who are often in desperate need for additional referrals. It bugs me, though.

In my research, I’ve found that there has been a sharp up-tick in violent crimes, domestic abuse and sexual violence over the last few years. And there’s a correlation with heat-stress. Even the Telegraph has reported this. These are the types of cases that eventually come before the jury-based Crown Court. The Metropolitan Police themselves released reports showing the link between rising temperatures and violence. Some irony, eh.

The violence is discriminatory too, in that mixed race women as a percentage of each ethnicity, are at a much greater risk (see Point 3). Here is a direct connection between climate change and racial/gender inequality. It’s just not fair, and the justice system should respond!

The irony is the Justice System (including Police & CPS), might involve itself in the fight for climate and ecological justice save for self-prosecution. But it’s going to be stretched beyond comprehension, struggling to keep up with cases; already short of funds. New prisons? At what cost, ecologically, socially and financially?

THIS IS HARD. Some of us know just how daunting the prospect of a collapsing biosphere and social existence might feel. But if the truth is not confronted, at least, by the ones who deal in truth everyday, who sit in judgment and bring prosecutions, then we risk any semblance of natural justice into the future, and ALL life as we know it.

I read deep sadness into those who will not confront truth, and who reject anything that does not conform to a narrow vision of what is ‘right’ and what is not. Methods of informing those in political power, and the greater population, have largely failed. Government and mass media maintain a tight grip on the very same economic system (and feeder-education geared for qualification and competition), which drives planetary destruction, whilst of course still generating wealth for the few and not the many.

The hard truth is human anthropogenic climate and ecological crises are also matters of racial prejudice, inequity and physical/mental/spiritual vulnerability, as well as harsh chauvinism towards all other forms of life.

A crunch point is coming. It may have already begun. But a compassionate response by all is the best response.

The critical work of institutions of establishment is no longer self-validation of existence or hiding behind neoclassical facades and traditions. Now is the time for these edifices to awake to a genuine moral calling, roll up their sleeves, and get stuck into real and profound social change.

Whether we are sleep walking, unknowing, paralysed by fear or strapped-in by some weird nihilistic procrastination, humans are edging towards a great drying and a great drowning.

And we’re taking so many innocent species with us.

The vulnerable and disenfranchised, human and non-human, will always feel it worse. Ecologism must be outed, plain for ALL to see, and the establishment institutions and journals must now follow the Lancet and truly engage.