Transcript: The Future of Activism
Interview with Gail Bradbrook, available to everyone
[00:02:04] Rachel Donald: Thank you very much for joining me on Planet: Critical, Gail. I'm very thrilled to speak to you. Unfortunately due to the nature of life at the moment, I'm not entirely sure what we're going to be talking about because somebody contacted me, somebody that you work with to talk about the forums that you're going to be speaking in, that the economic strategy that you're working on at the moment and your work post extinction rebellion. Is that correct?
[00:02:30] Gail Bradbrook: Thanks, Rachel, it's really great to be here. I'm really loving listening to your back catalog of interviews. Great people on there. I could happily talk about economics, but you've had such fantastic economic-y people on that I just, I'm not sure that that's the best use of our time. I'd like to talk about how we solve the climate and ecological crisis.
[00:02:52] Rachel Donald: Well, I do have a line of questioning for you actually, which is coming up a lot with the experts that I'm speaking with and, you know, they're sort of like they're academics or they're, you know, governmental advisors, and essentially the thing that we keep circling back on is always why the climate movement is pushing for certain things that research says is fundamentally impossible right now. And you're such an important part of the climate movement. I would love to pick your brains.
First of all, tell me how about how you got involved in extinction rebellion.
[00:03:24] Gail Bradbrook: What's probably useful information for you to know, Rachel, is that right at the minute I've sort of stepped to one side of extinction rebellion, working on a particular piece called being the change. So extinction rebellion is doing this, so I'm not here to really speak for like extinction rebellion UK.
Although I am a spokesperson, I know that they're working on strategy. I think I actually think the world of activism is going down certain rabbit holes and getting a bit stuck there personally. So there's been interest in, so it may be that what you want to talk about is right up that street.
[00:03:57] Rachel Donald: I'd be very interested to know more of what you think about those rabbit holes, if you're willing.
[00:04:01] Gail Bradbrook: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But it may well relate. I think it'll probably come up.
[00:04:06] Rachel Donald: Okay. So then tell me still, I would like to know about your initial involvement with extinction rebellion, how you got involved in that. And then how be the change has evolved from that. And I mean, what you have to say about activism in the UK, and how it's evolved to respond to the climate crisis, and maybe some of the flaws that, that you think need to be addressed.
[00:04:27] Gail Bradbrook: It's all relevant in a way to the story that I have been thinking about how things change for many, many, many years, as many of us have been, and was on a journey, just to give you a flavor of it, I was of the transition towns movement, I started something called street school economics to teach economics on the street.
And, I was part of the tax justice movement, for example. And so, one of the things that I set up, back in I think 2015, was called compassionate revolution. And it was the idea of how do we make the huge change that's needed and it rebranded as something called Rising Up, some people thought compassionate revolution was a bit of a mouthful, and what it was really talking about was the paradigm that we live in and the systems that are set up, and sort of how nobody's really to blame, although some people do play particular terrible roles within it, and that we have to have a movement of movements coming together who are willing to be saying no to how things are and also yes, to the world that we want to create. Right?
And there was this sort of draft manifesto. And the idea was that you would never have a completed manifesto because what you need is a functioning democracy. And we don't have a functioning democracy. And in order to have a functioning democracy, you have to, you have to be thinking together about the change that's needed.
So you need citizens to be in deliberative processes. So that, that existed in it's called rising up and it was doing various different projects, testing things out. And so some of us were very much working on anti-fracking, anti-incinerator stuff. There was people in London working on air pollution, and we came together in early 2018 and said, okay, it's time to really work together on one thing. And we all know we need to go into rebellion. Roger Hallam wrote a paper saying it's time to pivot to working on the climate and ecological crisis.
But I think what I'm trying to say to you is really the climate, ecological crisis is a manifestation of the fact that we're living in a way that doesn't make sense. And there are many other crises that are happening right now. Obviously many of them ecological: oceans heating, the state of our soils and waters, the mental health crisis, the crises around debt, around war. And, and, right. So it's, we're in an age of crises and they all have what one could talk about the same root. And if you're wanting to solve something, you have to ask the biggest questions, don't you like, why? And then you have to keep asking why. In fact, there's a process called the five whys. You say, why is this happening? And then when you give an answer to it and why is that? And why is that?
And I would say the first thing in activism, I'm not hearing people asking why enough. It took to really go through that, because of such desperation in people's bodies, it's a feeling of desperation.
So I was there at the start with extinction rebellion, and I think it's been a really important part of sounding an alarm to make that shift. And the sort of theory of change involves massive disobedience. And what I think extinction rebellion arose from was communities of togetherness that already existed. Ready, you know, as Miki Kashtan, who's a brilliant thinker, said that you don't sort of create social movements. You invite them into being, there's already something there that wants to come. And so you did have like transition town groups, local green party, people who were sort of concerned about plastics. You do have groups already of people working and knowing that we were in a state of emergency and nobody was naming it such.
And I think the reason for extinction rebellion's initial success was that there was already something that was waiting to happen. We caught the wave of that and we had a sort of engine room that Roger Hallam's really good at doing actually, which is mechanizing mobilization. So we had ways in which we did that through giving a talk, inviting people if they came on our social media to like us, then we would say, we'll have a talk and maybe you could start a local group.
So we, we managed to create this momentum and there'd be lots of training around what's called momentum driven organizing, and I could get into it. But just to say, there's lots of things that we didn't do right. Some of which we knew we weren't doing right at the time and some of which were clear afterwards. And I think that the alarm has been raised. And you really have to think what, what, how is the world different now? And what do we do next? Which is where the work that I'm doing with a group we call being the change, XR's Being the Change affinity network, it's where that work is coming from.
[00:09:46] Rachel Donald: Okay. Let's... I'm not interested in speaking with you about what extinction rebellion did wrong in the past, because there are so many articles and so many opinions on that, and I had Clare Farrell on actually, way back when, when this podcast was kind of starting out, who delivered an excellent sort of explanation and accountability, and it was just, it was fantastic speaking with her.
I would be very, very interested to know, though, from your perspective, as, as inside, you know, activism in the UK, what's going wrong now. Because it seems to me, the more research that I get from, you know, I'm just accumulating knowledge really, and trying to broadcast it out into the world from, from speaking with all these different people.
What worries me as a, as a citizen is that the research that these people are presenting me with and then the demands of activists groups, they seem to be incoherent essentially. And that kind of leads back into the idea of a functioning democracy. Now I completely agree, you know, the, the dream is like the Greek agora, right, where all citizens come and they listen to the debates and they participate in the debates, and they have access to the same information. But with the amount of information that is out there, the amount of misinformation that is out there, and the fact that, I mean, even governments are getting it wrong, activists are getting it wrong, researchers sometimes get it wrong. I mean, are we in a stage where we have the time in this emergency to adequately educate the entire public so they can take collective decisions on what needs to be done?
[00:11:21] Gail Bradbrook: Just, just, just to say on that particular front, that's not how a deliberative democracy works, you don't ask everyone everything. You know, you can have it at different levels and at different layers, so it can happen in a town where it's participatory budgeting on that town's budget. Or you could have it at the level of a country where you're looking at a particular issue and we have had a climate assembly, right? I mean, it was focused on 2050 as a goal, which is not the right timeline. And they came up with a set of reasonable proposals, having listened to a set of experts. For example, that we should have a frequent flyer tax. That's not getting implemented. So the issue is that we're able to do these new forms of democracy. But we don't have the momentum to deliver on them because the politicians, as they are today, are still wedded to a system that's broken.
[00:12:16] Rachel Donald: If I may, going full journalist mode here, I mean, the other issue is that a frequent flyer tax is a very, very, very small policy that does not engender the adequate change that we need to see. I mean, the emissions from global travel are about 3%, even focusing on emissions like carbon, methane, it's not really the root of all of the problems. So I mean-
[00:12:42] Gail Bradbrook: I mean, just to say it's a full report. I just give you one example of what, it was a whole list of interventions that they came up with. The question was, how will the UK hit net zero by 2050? I know, I'm not saying it's the right question. That matters. But what I am saying is that deliberative democracy has happened, but already it's been ignored.
And would it be interested to know though, is when you're referring to research that say one thing and the demands of activists that are doing than other, can you just say more specifically what research is some examples?
[00:13:13] Rachel Donald: Of course. So, so the big one that comes up on the show time and time and time again, that transitioning to renewables is a) never going to fulfill current energy demands, so it skews the actual problem, which is energy consumption. And B) the amount of materials and energy that are required to build renewables actually make them fairly unsustainable. C) the batteries that would need to be built to store energy during times where we don't have access to the wind or the solar, whatever, there's literally not enough lithium on the planet to create those kinds of batteries.
So it's a bit of a- renewables are a bit of a pipe dream, but because there's that pipe dream there, where there's this idea of just, just transition, well, actually it's taking direction off the main problem, which is the fact that certainly in the west, UK Europe, USA, the amount of energy that we are consuming is, is the unsustainable problem
[00:14:12] Gail Bradbrook: Sure. Thank you. Yeah. Now that's very clear. And just to say, in terms of extinction rebellion demands, which have been updated recently, but what, what, what, what they said was a citizens assembly on climate and ecological justice. And what we meant by that word, climate and ecological justice, is that it has to be done, one way of saying it, within Kate Rayworth's Donut. You know, it has to be done within that, or it's not going to work.
And what you're talking about is the paradigm of growth, and the fact that we have to move into a time of de-growth. So one of the, you know, as I start telling you the story of extinction rebellion, it was founded, the wider strategy was rising up and it was talking there about the problems of economic growth and so on.
And we brought that into, extinction rebellion was a thing that rising up was doing, do you see what I mean. So then what I worked on was called money rebellion, where what we wanted to do was bring the next level of awareness around the economic system that we live in. I mean, the issue with economic growth is it's so niche to be able to criticize it. It's growing, that people are able to, but just go back three years and if you were to criticize anything about the economic system, you're going to get a label like anticapitalist, which is an unhelpful label, I personally think, because it's a trope that means, you're anti-business, you're anti-market, don't get it, you think we should do something that was tried already and didn't work. I mean, you know, it's a signifier.
And what I would say is that we don't have a functioning capitalism anyway, you know, monopoly power is allowed now, that's the thing that was brought in. It's okay to have a monopoly power. You know, you've got tax havens throughout the world. So, you know, this idea you've got transparent market that's free and fair. Nonsense, right? I mean, it's, it's cronyism. Like, if you're into capitalism, you're not going to be thinking this is cool. Right? So if you're sort of thinking it's good for money to find the place where it's needed.
Now, obviously what you need is to know what you're for, you know, so you've got some brilliant economic thinkers, like Mariana Mazzucato, who talks about mission-based economics. Like what is it you're trying to achieve? And what this paradigm tries to do is divide and conquer constantly. It's a shape-shifter, this paradigm, and it is going to try and find a way of saying, well, you're in this camp, you're in that camp. And actually the consciousness that's emerging these days is one that integrates and synthesizes.
That's the job of the right brain, by the way. And it's a very left brain paradigm that we're in, if you've come across any of the brilliant work by Ian McGilchrist and Jill Bole Taylor, and others.
So it's integrative. So it's sort of saying that you take the best of what we've learned from all these things that we've tried. So it's not that there's not a role for renewable energy, but as you know, as you add in more renewable energy to the energy mix, if you keep growing, economic growth tracks resource use, and there is an absolute fantasy amongst economists that we can decouple economic growth and resource use and it's nonsense.
[00:17:31] Rachel Donald: It's absolutely mad. I mean, I can, oh, I'm going to forget who was on the podcast and said it, I think it might have been Blair fix, but he had this wonderful five minute point in his episode where he explained how like economic growth is essentially just resource use. So when hurricane Katrina hits and they have to rebuild all, whole towns, essentially, growth shoots up that year because there's been so much more spending and so much more use of resources and isn't it fantastic, the economy is growing. And it's like, people's homes were destroyed. Jobs were lost, families. I mean it's madness.
[00:18:08] Gail Bradbrook: I mean then there are other ways of measuring progress, you know, whether you use the sort of Donut of Kate Rayworth or there's the genuine progress indicator, which may be what Kate's using, I'm not sure, but where you do- economic growth as measured by GDP as defined by Simon Kuznets who probably people know said by the way, never use this measure as a success because it's very, very limited in its use. We do measure wellbeing in the UK, but don't get reported on. So, you know, you've got things like the genuine progress indicator that includes social and environmental focuses as well, and then you can see, well, how are we actually making progress? Well, no, if you measure the GPI we're in recession.
And you have other forms of economies. I mean, I'm not a great one for evoking the, especially at this moment, especially at this moment, the times of war and what they do show is that there are times when the economy is put on to an entirely different footing in service to an existential threat. You have the very brilliant work of the rapid transition Alliance, highly recommended- I'm doing your bit at the end now- get Andrew Sims on, if you haven't already, to talk about that. We've done many rapid transitions, but it has to be done within the constraints.
So I think it's interesting when you're saying that the demands of activists and the research are not in alignment. For me, that's not correct, but it may be it is for certain groups and/or it may be just how these things get reported on because there are nuances that are part of what XR and other people have brought forward that are not always seen.
[00:19:55] Rachel Donald: Sure. sure. It's not that all activism is just the call for transition to renewables. But, arguably, that is sort of the, the main sounding alarm.
[00:20:07] Gail Bradbrook: I mean, there's that and, there's that in this consumer change, right? They're the things that get the headlines and why do they get the headlines? It's because it's palatable to the current system who thinks it can switch one thing for another, and this is why I say it-
[00:20:24] Rachel Donald: but then, why would that be the mean call of activism as well? I mean, if you go on, on Twitter and you look at climate Twitter, it is-
[00:20:32] Gail Bradbrook: Yeah. I mean, maybe I'm just looking in different spaces, but my understanding, for example, the green new deal that was written in the UK some time ago, it was also about reshaping the finance system. It wasn't a superficial intervention.
Yeah, I mean, I, I don't, I don't want to entirely disagree that those things aren't pushed, but I'm not pushing them, is what I will say.
[00:20:55] Rachel Donald: Sure. I know, I understand that completely, because I know that economics has been such a big part of your strategy and your career as an activist, your work as an activist, I'm just, I'm interested to ask your opinion why you think that that is still used in activist forums as a call despite the research that a) it might not be possible, or it might be detracting from the question of consumption.
[00:21:21] Gail Bradbrook: Yeah, I feel like I'm just going to say the same point again Rachel, to be is that I think that the things that get the most air time are the things that are palatable for the current system. And it may be that some activists are stuck and haven't got the memo on the economic system, and it may be that they're saying the things that they feel will be heard, and maybe the way the media is reporting it- and I'm, I'm not really sure.
But I would say in the last three years, I've seen a really big shift in the understanding that the economy is a problem and that there are systemic issues at play here which go beyond the simple issue that we didn't really notice it was a climate and ecological crisis, and didn't quite get around to creating the right kind of energy.
I mean, the other aspect of this, going back to that point about capitalism, of course, is the subsidy, the vast subsidies of fossil fuels are bananas. Again, how is that functional capitalism when you've got mass subsidizing of certain industries? I mean, it depends whose measures you take, if you go, I think it was the IMF. They included the externalities and then the subsidies are skyrocketing. And I think it might be, order $10 million a second or something.
[00:22:50] Rachel Donald: Hmm. God, that's interesting. Good for them. And some very, very rare that such a big institution will actually publish externalities.
[00:22:58] Gail Bradbrook: Well, you know, on the growth point though, both, you know, a body in the European union said that we have to question economic growth. The bank of international settlements, which is the bank of central bankers, they produce their green Swan paper, and in there is a line saying, we may not be able to carry on having economic growth.
The Deutsche bank economists said, you know, they quoted in the McKinsey report something like, either we ask for economic growth to stop, which won't be palatable, or we carry on as we are, in which case the civilization will collapse. You know? So either way economic growth is going to have to stop. It's just whether you do it in a sustainable way, and with some sort of management as it happens.
[00:23:45] Rachel Donald: Yeah, understood. I think, this is something that, I mean, this is what this podcast is trying to highlight that the ecological crisis is a manifestation to paraphrase what you said at the beginning of sort of, you know, energy demands and the economic crisis and, and social inequality., if we were living a more equitable life, then the planet would, and society would not be, so out of whack.
[00:24:09] Gail Bradbrook: So that begs another why though? Why is that? Why are we doing that?
[00:24:16] Rachel Donald: Why....?
[00:24:17] Gail Bradbrook: Why are we letting that happen? Why is that? Why is that where we've got to? Sorry, I'm not interviewing you!
[00:24:23] Rachel Donald: No, no, no, no, no. It's interesting. I think, well, it, you know, it depends. I had Carl Safina on the podcast who, you know, sort of highlighted the line of thought beginning with Plato and the, the profanity of the physical world and how that engendered sort of the West's disrespect and disavowal of, of taking care of our bodies and our planet and our people, you know, throughout history.
And well, this is the other thing, I mean, throughout history, if, if growth is a natural part - if growth and degradation are natural parts of systems, systems grow, and then they collapse, and then arguably, this is just another fall of another empire, the difference is now there's 8 billion people on the planet and it's not just an empire in a part of the world that's going to fall because, you know, I'm trying to think of that- I think it was Mesopotamia where they irrigated all of the canals and they had this incredible growth period of culture and food production for hundreds of years. And then they ran out of water. And the human beings in that part of the world sort of disappeared, but it didn't affect the biodiversity, say, but just because there's so many of us now we're putting the whole planet in danger. That seems to be sort of the main difference of this empire crumbling. I don't know what you think about that.
[00:25:41] Gail Bradbrook: Yeah. I mean, it's really worth reading Graeber and Wengrove's book, The Dawn of Everything, about this sort of various histories, and also Rutger Bregman on who we are as a human species, you know, are we good? Are we bad?
What I would say is that we clearly have this ability to operate in different ways, in very, very different contradictory ways. And it manifests physically in our body with two brains that we have in our head. Right? You probably know about this stuff, but, you know, the left brain is the brain that works on detail, that sees things as machines, that abstracts that reduces, and it's meant to be in service to the right brain, which sees the bigger picture. And this is true of all animals, by the way. It's not just human beings.
The right brain is, is much more sort of holistic and has a sense of the divine, let's say, to put in the sacred, and sees life as a process and a continuity. And healthy cultures support the right brain. And in fact, in some cultures have a story about these two aspects to ourselves that are in a problem with each other.
The way Ian McGilchrist talks about it is the master in his Emissary. You know, the master is the right brain, and the right brain is the visionary brain. And this is what I think is very much missing in activism is: where are we going? What story are we telling ourselves about ourselves? Who are we as people? Human beings are meant to be a Keystone species. You know, we have played that role in the past. We are here to make the world more beautiful and yet we think we're really bad and activism is telling itself, we're just awful. You know, we are the virus.
What Western civilization does actively, including how we educate our children, is to focus on the left hemisphere. So you have this system that's based in trauma, and you know, one proposal is the sort of, you can use this language of patriarchy, white supremacy, Western domination, paradigm, power over system, however you want to name it right: "Wetiko" it's called in the Algonquin languages; "ulugu" in, in some parts of Africa. It's called the hungry ghost in Bhuddism. It's called the Rakshasas in, in, in Hinduism. So we, we know that there's this weakness in humanity where it, if it's in fear, it will operate in a certain way.
We have created an entire system that's based on fear and trauma and pressure and stress. But what it's really good at is understanding the world is a machine and using that machine against itself. So it will get us to, you know, as David Graeber also talked about, do a bullshit job. You know it's no use, but keep your head down because you've got a mortgage to pay.
And so there's this this really big question. Like, so we've worked out so well how to do this power over paradigm, so well, how to do it. And the thing with power over is that you grab resources and when you've got resources, you use it to get more resources. And, and because you're in a sort of domination loop, it spreads across the whole world. And that's seems to me, what's what what's happened. Do you understand? I'm saying, and, and, and, and then we, we grow ourselves as Westerners in a sort of blindness to it, thinking this is how things are meant to be.
[00:29:18] Rachel Donald: The thing that I would like to touch on here is the pronouns: we, you. Because ultimately what we're seeing in this sort of late stage capitalism is, you know, in an extremely developed, quote-unquote nation like the UK, well, an extremely wealthy nation like the UK, the middle class is being completely squeezed, economic and social precarity is increasing massively.
So, I mean, when we say 'we', the west, we are doing X, Y, and Z. I mean, ultimately surely the problem is that power, money, resources, opportunity are concentrated to such a small part of the population that are living in their own kind of paradigm where such behavior is perfectly normal: growth and domination. You know, surely one of the ways the activism needs to be going. at the moment is linking up like the environment movement and the labor movement, you know, the 'we are that 99%' movement, so it's not west versus east. West, you know, we're all bad people doing bad things, but rather, the vast, vast, vast majority of the world's population are all suffering under the same system that exists to serve a very, very, very small elitist minority.
[00:30:28] Gail Bradbrook: And, and one could argue, even with that minority, you know, you have people that are working on recovery from public school, from, from the trauma of going through the public school system, from being removed from their families, age seven, and, and putting into institutions where bullying is rife, and you've been taught to think that you are here to be in charge of the world. Right? I mean, I do think that the system has, I'm saying it's a self-optimizing system. It finds the narcissist, nihilist, sociopaths and puts them in certain positions of power. But it's still- when you make it 99% and 1% ask the question. Why again, Rachel, like why, if there's so few of them, are we not sorting it out?
You know, other cultures had ways of dealing with sociopaths. Actually, sometimes they killed them, frankly, if you're reading our history books and I think that would be a different way of, of handling it. But the question that you're also asking is why we're not acting as a collective? So the political theorist, Hannah Arendt said the power lies in the collective. So why are we not acting as a collective?
[00:31:37] Rachel Donald: I would argue that, first of all, not everybody can be a visionary. Right?. And certainly a lot of people don't have the headspace for visions, they have to think about getting food on the table. But the problem that I perceive with activism at the moment is it's not offering people a dream.
It's not offering people a vision to get behind. I mean, the collective is kind of- generally speaking, right, if you're a person just going about your day to day and you don't know much of the information that's out there, your options are either, well, maybe if I stick at this system, I might win at it. I might get ahead, or, okay, these people over here want to radically change my life in ways that are beyond comprehension, and there's no sort of like detailed plan as to what my life would look like afterwards. So I don't really want to join up with them.
[00:32:26] Gail Bradbrook: Yeah. And, and, and the media are sort of weaponizing this idea as environmentalist as bad and environmentalist against the working classes, you know, which especially upsets me. You know, I come from a coal mining community.
So, I'm in complete agreement with you. The activist space is not in dialogue with the public. So I think what extinction rebellion did to raise the alarm made a lot of sense and it worked and it was novel and so on, but the leading edge of social movement theory, another person I would recommend you head on is Stellan Vint Hargens work, and he's synthesized the work of sort of Gene Sharp, Gandhi, you know, you've got the sort of brilliant work of Eric Chenoweth these days, and it's, it's very clear that you have to have several different parts to your strategy.
Social movements theory says there are four different things that you need to be doing, and just, you know, simplifying that all sorts of details here. One of them is, Esbjörn-Hargens language talks about utopian enactment, and that's, I would say, being the change. Like how do you do the thing? What can you do right now with the agency that you have right now being the change, and acting. So there are opportunities there for doing micro changes around democracy, that would be important, there're opportunities there around our connection with nature and wilding. There are sort of opportunities around how you think about local food sovereignty and so on. So the enactment of the change, I don't mean individual consumer choices.
Another part is dialogue and I think again, sort of activist spaces are missing this piece. Like how are we supposed to be in dialogue with the public, especially when it's mediated through a press that is largely owned by sort of a handful of billionaires are running their own story. Right? What are our actions speaking to the world and how are we attempting to be in dialogue with the public? And the very beautiful things that happen with extinction rebellion was that there were many sorts of spin-offs, groups that found each other, and one was called trust the people, and they focused on the new forms of democracy, and so you can run people's assemblies.
So if you're going to talk for example about, I don't know if you're going to block a road, maybe you should be talking about transport. Maybe you should be organizing deliberative processes, you know, to be in dialogue with the public. Don't just just be like fucking their day up. And how do you make cultural interventions that are lifting up our hearts and letting us know that we can do this differently? And if we're just banging people on the head with the fact that there's an emergency and they all need to panic and putting them in their sort of, you know, I don't know if you know, polyvagal theory, which is about the pain body, putting them in their sort of pain body. One of the things that people do is they fight or they flight, or they freeze. They go into dorsal vagal shutdown. We are a very shutdown society, and if you keep alarm ringing, if I kept make an alarm noise throughout this podcast, you'd be like, shush.
[00:35:37] Rachel Donald: If I may jump in here, I had Jason Hickel on the podcast to discuss de-growth. The thing that stuck out to me was one of the policies of de-growth, one of the best ways to combat emissions and resource use and all this would be moving to a four-day workweek.
And I was like, geez, if you say that to the general public, they'll all become activists overnight. None of us want to work five days a week.
[00:36:01] Gail Bradbrook: Well, you know what, one of the other great policies in de-growth, as well is universal basic services that under the new economics foundation has done the figures on, right. It's only a few percent of GDP. There is going to be a great attack on any of this stuff because it's not profit making, and it's not about the profit motive and people, you know, what did I get labeled once? Some kinds of Marxist primitive or something. It was ridiculous. But it really is a sort of, you know, you can easily vision an economic system that has different aspects to it, like will provide people with their basic needs, and then free up people to do work that has meaning.
We're in a time, when, you know, again, Paul Hawkins book on regeneration, beautiful book, and it's based on the idea that we, that, that, that the key way we need to think about this crisis is one of stopping the harm and it's repairing the harm. This is very much, you know, the language of my sister, Esther is reparatory justice, you know? So, I think that we are failing, the activist spaces in my view are failing, and some of it's to do with the media, but it's not just, it's coming from within, to tell the story of who we are as human beings.
And, and, and the more that you evoke sort of emergency mentality, unfortunately, the more desperate people get.
[00:37:26] Rachel Donald: I, it's interesting, right, because it's this, and I use this term a lot on the show, it's all about symbiosis, right? Because the, the issue, it seems, of empires growing and collapsing would be, you know, we sort of establish one system and we ride that system until it kills us. So even within activism, I mean, there needs to be, there needs to be discussion of emergency, but there also needs to be discussion of hope and vision and prosperity for the future. So it's not about sort of shifting gears suddenly, but creating a better, not better, but,-
[00:38:02] Gail Bradbrook: It's a sort of holistic.
[00:38:04] Rachel Donald: Yeah. An ecosystem of messages and policies.
[00:38:08] Gail Bradbrook: And I think that's what we're working on with the piece around being the change. And it's sort of bigger than that actually, because this, this thing around connection and togetherness. That is where change comes from, when people feel in a group, where they feel together and they feel a deep connection, a sense of agency, sense of justice, love, you know. There does seem to be, I mean, the force in the universe, I think one of your guests spoke to it, maybe Joshua Farley, but that pulls things together.
I call it the magic sauce. XR in its first iteration had this magic sauce, right? You put the pink boat on the streets and the pink boat was visionary. It was saying, nobody's coming to save us. We're saving ourselves and we're gonna have fun while we do it. And you had Waterloo bridge and you had a sense of community. And we brought trees and we were with nature and it was visionary. And there was sense of togetherness.
I was telling you about the different bits of, of social movement theory. The fourth bit is called the power breaking move. It's the moment at which you say, we're not doing that anymore. That's not okay. We're stopping. So being the change is about marrying the yes with the no. You know, we're saying yes to these things and no, to no, to other things.
And so because of part of the sorts of Western paradigm that sits in, in, in activism is, you know, unfortunately it's this is sort of white savior mentality, which is we've got to save the world, not seeing that all over the world there are communities that are in resistance to the extractive economy. I mean, you've got the Maasai people who are about to be evicted in the hundreds of thousands from their lands, right, who've been living sustainably. You know, as Paul Hawkins talks about in his book, the first, first thing we have to do in this crisis is stop the harm, right? So when you've got indigenous people who know how to live on the land, how to live well with that land, worked it out that they are of that land, you don't chuck them off their land, which is what's happening in the vast way in Brazil and other places.
What we have to do as a collective is understand that we are one human family and be able to act as a collective. And that requires a lot of this magic sauce, right? And lots of sense of connection and agency and so on. What you tend to get in activist spaces is sort of urgency of, we've got to fix things, we've got to sort it out and, and doesn't do the work. Some people talk about solidarity. It's even more than that of work of seeing our family and being in connection. And sort of web 3.0 technologies allow that possibility.
So imagine that, you know, whichever group you're in, you might be doing a regenerative agriculture project in where I'm from, Stroud, or a rewilding project somewhere, or focusing on new forms of democracy or economics. Always, always to be thinking, where is my history? Whose shoulders am I standing on? Where are my ancestors? And where am I going? And who else in the world should I be connected to with this work? So that we can not just be lip service in sending out the odd tweet, but in genuine human connection.
So one of the things that's happening at the minute, mentioning the Maasai, is that some of the young people in extinction rebellion and XR Youth formed a solidarity group and they've made a direct human connection with the Maasai. And now that attack on the Maasai people, they feel it as an attack on themselves. What's happening with the economy of extraction is we don't feel it. We often don't feel it. And the extraction is happening, most of it's happening, in the global south. And you've sort of got global north activists that are thinking they're here to fix things and what we really want to do is make those human connections between our groups and our, you know, XR's internationally solidarity network have been working on that for some years now. And so some of those connections are starting to be made, but we need to scale this up really rapidly.
[00:42:27] Rachel Donald: Surely also we need to be making human connections to the people in power that are running the show because I mean, arguably, you know, hashtags like 'eat the rich' are not inviting to the people that have the most capacity to make decisions that will engender positive changes for communities around the world.
That's not inspiring connection.
[00:42:51] Gail Bradbrook: Yeah, I know. There's another bit of social movement theory eric Chenoweth speaks to which of defections. So, if you were trying to remove a dictator, which is where a lot of sorts of social change has been focused on, and Gene Sharps' work looked at that. He wrote a book about how to take down dictators, got translated into sort of 80 different languages, right on the Arab spring and all sorts.
One of the moments that happens is that, say the civil servants of that country start to defect from the dictator. Now they might not do it very visibly, but they go on go slow or they won't do the work or they're all off sick, or you know, that sort of thing.
Yeah, you're absolutely right. We need a sort of defection strategy. So like what some of us were working on and supporting was an initiative called leaders for global assemblies in which we were inviting business leaders and other sorts of leaders of prominence within the mainstream to sign a letter that said the system is a problem and it incentivizes us to harm. And in order to change the system, we have to have people involved in a rewire of humanity, essentially, we have to redesign what we're doing here. And we have the sort of former global head of tax at KPMG sign it. We had heads
[00:44:08] Rachel Donald: Fantastic.
[00:44:09] Gail Bradbrook: banks signing that. But it could do with getting out there more. I had a conversation recently and waiting to see if that person's willing to put their name to this publicly, who'd been the former heads of a significant role within a major bank. And I've also had friends, my friend Donnachadh McCarthy who writes for the independent had somebody who was the head of sustainability in the bank saying XR's making our job easier when we were breaking the bank windows, their own bank's window there with secretly saying, thank you, right?
So what we're talking about is that the emperor has got no clothes on. And when you're looking at something as, as, as being systemic, it's like who can put their hands on the levers. And one of the things is to just simply name it. Like this is not working, you know. I'm going to be doing a talk at the Royal economics society, I think we need bodies like that to be saying the growth paradigm is finished, right? You don't have ecological economics be, you know, in not even in the economics department with some other department shoved over there. If it's not ecological, it's not economics. So, so we need that level of defection.
And what, what happened in the first wave of XR was we had a lot of bodies declaring emergency. Good, right? Okay. The architects were declaring, the musicians were declaring and so on. We now need a wave of people that are making an oath to the new world, to the being the change, to what wants to come, to what's being born, to what's already around us.
And we need all of us to focus on where the power actually lies. And most of it lies where the resources are that are being extracted, and most of that's in the global south it's in the majority world. We need to operate as a body together to say, to say no, as we say yes to something else.
You know, I think it's, it's in a very scattered way within this sort of interview, Rachel, but I can absolutely see how we could do this. So that's very exciting. Well, it's a mixture of the things I just said, really. It would help if there was this sort of architecture, a way of being online for people that are ready to participate in a being the change approach. Whereby as a group, you're focused on the magic sauce, the togetherness piece, the healthy piece, that we're collaborative practices. You know, working on the ways of which, you know, what happens in activist spaces quite a bit is that - and some of it's probably due to infiltration some of it through what we bring as activists in our desperation- but you can, people can bring a lot of sorts of negative energy that, makes it quite hard to work together. So that you need to work in your groups and they need to be rooted into the land and into the sort of acts, the places where you have agency. So direct action. This is not really a, I'm not giving you the elevator picture am I? Direct action, you've got the direct action that's trying to stop something like I'm going to sit in the way of this tree being cut down for HS2. And you've also got the direct action that says I'm going to get my council who's declared a climate emergency to make my whole town an arc. Mary Reynolds work, acts of random kindness to the earth, which is where you let a percentage of your garden go wild. All the bits of the council land that where they sort of mowing it, why don't they just let it grow?
[00:47:33] Rachel Donald: Yeah.
[00:47:34] Gail Bradbrook: Carbon capture storage into nature, right? These are the things that people can do now. So you focus on that. Another piece of it is that we have to get really, really good at working with our trauma and healing that, and there were, you know, I'm sorry, I'm just downloading loads of books on you today, but there's the fantastic Recapture The Rapture from Jamie Wheal about open sourcing healing protocols that can happen. You don't have to go off somewhere miles away to access some sorts of sacrament.
Another key piece of it is, is, is what our international solidarity collaborators call glocalism. It's that you always see what you're doing locally in its global context, make the connections, you know, you make a human connection to another community of resistance so that you're not seeing your activity- you know, within this paradigm, everything gets separated. You're making these connections. We hear from each other about what is sacred and how is our expression of sacredness? How, how do we connect to the land? How are we repairing? It's all, all acts of repair that I'm talking about, how are we repairing democracy, ourselves, our economic systems and so on.
And then we focus together on stopping the harm. And this is where the power breaking bit of social movement theory comes into play. You say, okay, this is happening right now. And this is what we can do together. I'll give you an example, right? The Adani coal miners, there's resistance happening on the frontline to it. There's also banks wanting to fund it, and there are insurance companies that need to be brought into insure this monstrosity that's going to have this ridiculous carbon footprint, if allowed to go ahead. That is not one person's problem, the Adani coal mine, it's everybody's issue. And we can all play a part in stopping that from happening.
So there's a brilliant organization called market forces. Money rebellion had been partnering with them and we've been using our digital rebellion processes to really go after the insurance companies. There are last count, 44 different insurance bodies that won't ensure or insure this coal mine. That's what we can do at our end. Do you see what I mean? And if we can do that anywhere in the world because of online technologies, if they've got connection.
But we, we, we need to feel like that is our issue. It's not theirs to solve. And we're over here doing this thing. So every time you're, you know, if you're resisting fossil fuel exploitation in this country, you're in connection to the extraction that's happening in Bangladesh or wherever else.
[00:50:16] Rachel Donald: I think, I think that network, and I'm glad you mentioned web 3.0 earlier, is so key because I think one of the things that is so overwhelming for ordinary citizens say, and you'll notice as well, I'm sure, the fact that we've spoken about activists and the public. Like we've atomized that even though all of you are, we're all members of the public and we're all trying to do something, we're all citizens together.
I think it can be extremely overwhelming for people when they're just, there seems to be, even within the climate movement, but then the social justice movement and then, you know, the economic inequality movement and then the global south versus the global north movement or global north versus the global south, rather. It's so overwhelming. There are so many different things to focus on all the time and people that have, you know, found their hill that they want to die on are shouting for attention on that hill, obviously, because they're trying to draw attention to it. And I think that that kind of fracturing of attention is one of the issues that we're seeing, it's so overwhelming for members of the public to sort of get on board generally with the big picture. So that network as you're saying, I mean, I personally think that that could be a key progression and evolution for the activist movement.
[00:51:27] Gail Bradbrook: It's sort of more than a network, right? So there will be certain criteria for being involved in it. You would need it to have got some things in place. And if you haven't, there'll be pathways for getting those things in place. For example, if you're wanting to sort of shout and scream about your particular issue, but you're not ready to do glocalization to sort of be in connection and solidarity and community and communion with another group that's working on a similar thing, then let's go through the pathway on glocalisation.
If you're just driving people through to burn out, you don't really want to have a regenerative culture cause we're in an emergency so we haven't got time for that stuff, or you just see it as a little bit of wellbeing or something like that, there'd be sorts of pathways and support for- I see it as quite a bit of a game, really, in a good way, in the best version of a game, a collaborative game.
So if you sort of picture the monster that has taken over the world and we collectively are going to come together and defeat this monster. There'll be a thing that you can do next that adds to the field, the strengthens the field, and there'll be pathways for that.
Anthony Lawson's written a brilliant book called The Entangled Activist about what it means when you're trying to dismantle the master's tools with the master's house, right? So recognizing that the master's tools. So there's that piece. But what I'm wanting to say is that part of it is if you're not attracting in members of the public, like go back to some of the basics of social theory. This is where, why I think it is important, the agency piece. It is so overwhelming. I just spent yesterday planting 400 trees on some land in a rewilding project and it was a beautiful.
And it just, it's so important that we root ourselves into our communities and into the land as part of this, and it's not just on the intellectual.
I'll give you another example. It's the difference between, oh, I can do this as an individual, and we could do this. And the value of doing this is because it is powering up, it is powering up this being the change which is ready to defeat the paradigm. And so, so as an example, right? If we were blocking traffic, you wouldn't be telling people, you shouldn't be in a car. I have a car. Obviously what we need is to change the system, right. We need-
[00:54:00] Rachel Donald: More public transport.
[00:54:01] Gail Bradbrook: Public transport. Exactly. And it depends where you live. One of the things you could do is have a regional assembly about how do we need to do transport within Gloucestershire? What does each area need? That type of thing. Take it to the regional bodies that have some power to make changes. But the other thing that individuals could do is to say, I can speak for myself on this, I would happily hand over my car to public ownership. There are ways in which you can change petrol diesel engine cars into electric vehicles and share them. I don't need a car, but I do need access to a car in Stroud sometimes because even if you have lots of buses, just the nature of the hills around here, I don't think that would quite cut it.
You're sort of inviting people into a system change.
[00:54:49] Rachel Donald: Well, yeah, but then, but then again, to be honest, my first thought was, but switching to an electric vehicle is not actually that much of a system change. But the public ownership part, sure. But EV? No.
[00:55:02] Gail Bradbrook: Well, yeah, I totally agree, right. And we all know the problem. Well, the vast problems with electric vehicles. I am not a big one for, you know, bigging up technology, but I think in the space of transport, there are some interests in things.
They used to sort of say, if you ask people what they wanted from transport years ago, they would've said faster horses because they didn't know about cars or, you know, planes or whatever, and I'm not celebrating those. But these, these sorts of big shifts, people need to know that they're possible.
So all I'm really trying to say is that if you're going to be working on social change there has to be a dialogue with the public about what the change could look like and how they could participate it in a way that's not saying, okay, you need to stress yourself out extra now because you've got to find another 50 pounds a week for food cause it's gotta be organic.
[00:55:56] Rachel Donald: I think that's such a good point because so many people, I think, essentially feel so squeezed generally by the power structures that are in place and they feel that they have no voice. And maybe some of the resistance to the different movements that are going on around the world is this idea of being told, once again, you have to make changes. You know, you have to do this, we have the answers, rather than that dialogue that you're referring to.
[00:56:19] Gail Bradbrook: Hmm. Yeah. I mean, Anthony Lawson covers a lot of this in Entangled Activist because even that label, even me sort of adopting that label, it puts me in a group and there's in-group out-group. There's something even of adopting that word that can make somebody feel bad, cause they're in quotes not an activist or whatever. You create a separation.
I think there's something deeply problematic in that shadow of activism that includes, you know, self-righteousness-
[00:56:48] Rachel Donald: Ego.
[00:56:49] Gail Bradbrook: Ego, shadow motivations that aren't acknowledged, you know, we all could name them. There's also a shadow in people who are not activists
[00:56:59] Rachel Donald: Oh God. It's with everything. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. It's the human condition.
[00:57:04] Gail Bradbrook: Well, this is, what's really, really beautiful about many of the sort of emergent stories now about who human beings are. Like, we understand a lot more about social psychology about why people make certain choices. There are sorts of psychological theories like system justification theory, terror management theory. There are certain things that this system again is triggering and activism is triggering them. And it's like, if we're going to be in dialogue, we need to understand how you create togetherness through the conversations that you're having, rather than a sense of separation. And I don't see as yet sort of these spaces that are, you know, charging around, blockading things and so on, there'll be more to come this year, doing this deep enough thinking, which is why I've sort of taken myself off to the side, to work with a group of mostly global south focused activists and young people who are going this, this isn't working for us.
We know something deeper needs to happen.
[00:58:16] Rachel Donald: Well, I, commend your efforts over the years without a shadow of a doubt. And also, I mean, well done on, on continuing to evolve as well in the work that you're doing and constantly educating yourself. I've written down every single book that you've referenced throughout this interview. Thank you very, very, very much. And I really, really look forward to seeing how be the change it evolves over the coming year. Where can people find out more about it?
[00:58:40] Gail Bradbrook: Do you know, just because of that thing of not wanting to have a rush of people in that we then are onboarding, well, we haven't, we haven't put things up online very much. There are bits of social media is being the change by the way.
No, no, it's fine. I think we've just got some social media up there, so people could start following that. But I, yeah, I would say for now, watch the space more than- and also just reflect, if you're in a group, you know, some of the things that we've talked about,
[00:59:09] Rachel Donald: Yeah.
[00:59:10] Gail Bradbrook: where your group is at, honestly, reflect on that.
[00:59:13] Rachel Donald: Excellent. And Gail, who would you like to platform? Is it Andrew Simms?
[00:59:19] Gail Bradbrook: He'd be one of them. Everyone I've mentioned: Anthony Lawson, Esther Stanford-Xosei is a brilliant reparationsist I work with. There are many great people out there, yeah.
[00:59:33] Rachel Donald: Excellent. Gail, thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure speaking with you.
[00:59:37] Gail Bradbrook: Thank you.