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Are councillors right to be ‘vigilant’ towards Extinction Rebellion?

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24 July 2019 will not only be recorded for being the hottest day in 2019, but it will also be recorded for being the day that Newcastle councillors are warned to be careful due to threats from Extinction Rebellion protestors.  

With Extinction Rebellion being an environmental activist group, the news that Newcastle councillors are voting on the plans for a mine to be opened on the outskirts of Newcastle caused them to be horrified. With a national emergency being called because of climate change, the news that mines will be opened was bound to cause uproar. There have been many objections to this plan, and with the councillors set to vote soon on whether this plan will go forward, activists are trying to do everything they can to prevent our environment from becoming even more damaged.  

Extinction Rebellion believe that they have a “democratic right” to peacefully protest to councillors. They believe that they have a say in what is happening to their, and all of ours, environment. Their website says that they believe that “our current systems of governance is compromised by a focus on profits and economic growth”. The plan to open a mine seems to fulfil this opinion of our councillors. Our environment is being detrimentally impacted because of the system of capitalism. Mines make money, yes, but they also damage our environment. Therefore, it comes down to an ethical choice: money or our future?  

If the opening of the mine goes ahead, it will hugely impact our environment. Opencast mining is very detrimental to our environment.  

Firstly, the burning of fossil fuels needed by the transportation and trucks on site contributes to the already rapidly increasing climate change; the release of carbon dioxide and other chemicals is bad for the ozone layer. With open pit mining, the ground has to be opened up using heavy machinery, and so the amount of fossil fuels burned is very large even from the beginning of the project.  

Secondly, with open pit mining, cyanide, mercury and sulfuric acid are used to remove the wastewater from the pure substances. Consequently, the groundwater and the air are contaminated due to toxic dust, which is then absorbed by animals and plants. Hence, open pit mining is bad both for climate change and for the health of our animals. So, if it is really that bad then why are councillors even considering this project? Extinction Rebellion’s website suggests one answer only: money. 

Our planet currently is in a state of despair due to climate change. I believe that Extinction Rebellion are taking the correct approach to combat this, and are choosing our future over money. Their peaceful protests make councillors and those who are also responsible in making decisions about our environment take note of our opinions. 

When councillors are told to be “vigilant” due to protestors, it means that these protestors are having their opinions recognised. This isn’t bad thing, when we live in a world where the USA has just had 1.6 million acres of land burnt down because of the rapid increase in temperature on Earth.  

We live in a world where the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by Arctic wildfires between 1st June 2019 and 21st July 2019 is reaching almost the entire 2017 fossil fuel carbon dioxide emission of Belgium. We need to take action. We need to stand up and take responsibility for our actions on OUR environment. If Extinction Rebellion does nothing to protest against this mine, then who will? It is our future. It is our children that will suffer the impact of our neglect of our environment. It is our world. Activists like those in Extinction Rebellion are paving the way for us to assume control of how we want our future environment to be, and, if you ask me, we need to help them with this mission. 

Last modified: 28th July 2019

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