Direct Action: What, Why, Who and How

Climate Cafe, 6 August 2019.

Who must act to tackle climate change? All of us. When? Right now. Why? Because there is no more time for waiting for plans or solutions. Climate change is happening now. Millions of living beings are currently suffering or dying because of climate change. We need to engage with our community to have a broader impact with our voice and actions. But how to act? Well, this was one of the questions discussed at the Climate Cafe in August. Aberdeen Climate Action gathered activists from different organizations who shared their perspectives about direct action. There were speakers from Faslane Peace Camp, the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, and Extinction Rebellion Aberdeenshire.

Direct action comprises of a wide array of different tactics and actions. Using historical examples, Fiona Napier, showed us the impact and importance of some of the biggest examples of direct action and how different actions interact with each other: it is how all of these combine, which leads to success. The common characteristic of all though has been to raise awareness, gathering people, drawing attention and having an impact through the media leading to action from those in power. Gillian Siddons spoke on her ideas about wealth creation and invited us all to think about the foundations of our society. Paul Matter, Extinction Rebellion, reiterated the need to have direct action taken with love and respect at the very heart of it and spoke about the XR way and their ‘near’ future plans for action, which we were all invited to join in with. 

While it is clear that it was felt by all that our governments have not taken sufficient action on climate change, it was emphasized that everyone should be involved in this matter. As citizens, we can encourage the government to take public actions, nonetheless, it is not an exclusive matter of the government, it is about individual behaviour. All of us are facing climate change, so all of us need to act now.

This cafe was a passionate one, where the public discussed the actions already taken, and the actions needed still to be taken. Although there was a variety of perspectives on how to take direct action, there was a consensus about why and who needs to take action on the climate. This is about climate action, a matter that concerns everyone, so that everyone needs to act. To find out more on how you can live sustainably visit our sustainable Aberdeen website: www.sustainableaberdeen.com and keep appraised of actions in our local area on the Aberdeen Climate Action facebook page.

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Is it time to get rid of the family car?

We dispensed with the family car three years ago and I’ve never regretted it. We are a family of four: two adults and two primary school children and we found we were able to walk or cycle to most of the places we wanted to go. We are lucky to live in Aberdeen where there’s a fantastic car club, a good bus service, and it’s reasonably flat which makes it good for cycling, although the cycling infrastructure could be better.

The best thing about not owning a car is you’re not tempted to use it for short trips that don’t require a car. It’s too easy to form bad habits and drive 300m up the road when there’s a car sitting in the garage. I know because I used to do that. Now I walk or cycle and get exercise for free. I use the word free in a non-monetary sense: it’s exercise without having to find the time to do it because it happens as a consequence of going from A to B. We’re also producing less pollution which is good for air quality and have lowered our greenhouse gas emissions. Even better, we’re saving money as we no longer have car-related expenses like petrol, depreciation, insurance, maintenance, and MOTs.

One huge cost of car ownership which is often ignored is the space needed to park the millions of privately-owned vehicles. Each parking space is 2m x 5m which is 10m2. Multiply this number by the 31 million cars in the UK and that’s 310 million square metres of land set aside just to park cars. This doesn’t includes all the roads and motorways needed to move them around. It’s an enormous amount of space. Imagine if that space was instead reserved for people, for parks, for trees, or for homes.

Living car-free is liberating. You’ll spend more time outdoors talking to people. You’ll also never have to vacuum the inside of a car ever again. It’s worth it just for that.