On Wednesday August 14, Extinction Rebellion Chicago members converged on the Thompson Center to demand Governor Pritzker DECLARE A CLIMATE EMERGENCY. Our nonviolent protest included a prepared speech which was cut short due to overwhelming and disproportionate use of force by the police, a die-in, banners and chants. Melanie, who wrote and read the speech, was cuffed and detained but later released without charges.
On Sunday, May 12th, Mother’s Day 2019, Extinction Rebellion Chicago members were out in force for an action at Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate sculpture, perhaps better known as The Bean. Check the video below which includes coverage of the action and interviews with participants.
by Melanie Hoekstra
Greetings, fellow humans.
Greetings, people of this planet,
this blue and green rock that sails along through space,
forever connected to our star, the Sun,
whose energy we rely upon to give us sustenance,
to give us life, to give us the core of our very existence.
Across the world, we are called together by the quiet shattering of our broken promises.
We are called together by the Sun, and her daughter, our mother… our Earth.
We are called together because we know in the deepest place in our hearts
that we are perpetrating a monstrous violence against our one true mother,
a violence that we must face,
a violence for which we must repent,
a violence we must stop now.
Our folly is as vast as the ocean; our folly is the destruction of the ocean,
pouring in toxic carbon dioxide and plastic trash like the mighty Niagara,
destroying the life-sustaining shores, polluting rivers with excess nutrients,
making the seas too acidic for coral to grow,
filling the bellies of bird and beast alike with our endless waste.
Our folly is as high as the mountains; our folly is the destruction of the mountains,
whose tops we blow up to mine dead dinosaur flesh
and rare earth metals to feed our insatiable desires,
whose trees we shave off like hair, the pulp of which goes to wipe our bottoms,
destroying the homes of so many animals that
we are entering a time of human-caused mass extinction.
Our folly is as wide as the sky; our folly is the destruction of the sky,
into which we pour toxic smoke and gases that ride on the wind all the world round,
shortening the lives of millions of people, animals, and plants,
from the ash in their lungs and on their leaves,
by the particles so small they enter the bloodstream,
causing disease and illness of all manner.
Our folly is as deep as Lake Michigan; our folly is the destruction of Lake Michigan,
Our own fresh water sea, future coastline for climate refugees by the millions,
while we too suffer annual 500-year floods,
the mass failure of monoculture crops,
deep freezes and heat waves, the likes of which we have never seen.
Listen to the silence.
Listen to the roaring, deafening silence that is our inaction…
Listen to the stillness that is our refusal to face our truth,
our refusal to turn away from the lies we are told
in an endless stream of advertisements for junk we don’t need…
Listen to the sound of poisons silently leaching into our bodies
from everything we touch, every glass of water we drink, every breath of air we take…
Listen to the corporations quietly acquiring vast wealth,
who make their fortune from those poisons,
who lie in bed with government officials so they’ll look the other way.
Listen to the apocalypse of insects, whose buzz has suddenly quieted
from the deadly pesticides we’ve used to win a needless war against them,
Listen to the thousands of pages of legislation
that perpetuate this needless mass murder.
Listen as we teeter on the brink of ecological collapse,
listen to the eerie quiet that comes before our fall off the cliff,
listen to our to our mother, the earth, as she screams in silenced agony,
listen as we suffocate her and her children,
listen as we destroy all that is sacred,
all that is beautiful,
all that is alive.
Can you hear it?
Can you hear we humans opening our eyes?
Can you hear our slow turn toward the truth?
Can you hear the faintest recognition of responsibility?
The sun rises. The dawn awakens the drowsy mind.
We are the people who believed the lies of the marketers.
We are the people who bought the trash, knowing it was trash.
We are the people who let our political leaders turn a blind eye
to the destruction of our planet,
We are the people who let corporate deathmongers
consume all the natural world for their insatiable greed.
We are the people who let our media ignore our collective folly,
who don’t demand more than listicles and witty headlines.
We are the people who are acting out our own destruction.
But we are also the people for whom we wait.
We are the sleeping giant that is the flesh and blood of civil society.
We are the sleeping giant that can awaken to the peril we have created.
We are the sleeping giant that can rise up and fight back against the destruction of our only home!
We ARE the PEOPLE! We ARE the sleeping giant that we have been waiting for!
Awaken, Giant! Awaken!
[Chorus starts chanting softly: Awaken, Giant! Awaken! Awaken, Giant! Awaken!]
Giant, rise up! Awaken from your slumber! Sleep no more!
[Awaken, Giant! Awaken! Awaken, Giant! Awaken!]
Awaken, Giant! Lift your eyelids and see the destruction!
Awaken, Giant! Open your eyes to the lies we believe, even though we know they are lies!
Awaken, Giant! See the truth of our folly! See how our only home sits on the edge of apocalypse!
AWAKEN, GIANT! FACE THE TRUTH OF OUR OWN DESTRUCTION!
HOPE IS LOST!
BUT ACTION BEGINS!!!
THE PRESS RELEASE FOR THIS ACTION CAN BE FOUND HERE
ACTIVISTS’ PERSONAL STATEMENT
Chicago, IL – We are parents, teachers, and Extinction Rebellion activists based in Chicago. On the morning of Friday, April 12, we are intentionally blocking the Energy Forward Conference because we want our children, our students, and all living beings to have a planet that supports the interdependent flourishing of life. We are locking our bodies to the doors of the University Club of Chicago at 76 E. Monroe Street.
Our message for the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, the host of the conference, and the energy companies sponsoring the conference–Chevron and Exelon–is this: OIL MONEY IS BLOOD MONEY.
Burning fossil fuels, using single-use plastics, promoting a consumption-based lifestyle, behaving as if only human concerns have moral significance–all of these bring death, to humans and to our fellow beings, whom we depend on for our own lives.
Our action today, April 12th, focuses on fossil fuels because thousands of scientists around the world have identified the burning of fossil fuels as the single greatest cause of global warming, which is in turn the cause of sea level rise, wildfires, species extinction, droughts, crop failures and, if we continue with business as usual, human extinction. Although we acknowledge that one panel at theconference will focus on renewable sources of energy, we also recognize that the central premise of the conference is that fossil fuels will continue to be extracted and sold, infrastructure for this enterprise will continue to be built, investments will continue to be solicited, and investors will continue to make unimaginable sums of money from these enterprises. Yet in October 2018, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued an urgent warning that we must drastically reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2030 in order to avoid irreversible climate tipping points as early as 2040, well within the lifetimes of our children and our current students. In order to avoid these tipping points, which would leave the next generation to live in a hell on earth, we must stop burning fossil fuels as quickly as possible, which means we must begin stopping now.
This is an undeniable truth that no amount of talk, or even action, about renewable energy will change. The burning of fossil fuels must end now, which means that all actions enabling the burning of fossil fuels must end now as well. To continue with these activities will be to end life as we know it.
This is why we are using our bodies to try to prevent this conference from happening. Governments, global business, and global diplomacy have all failed to stop the burning of fossil fuels or even slow down the activities–drilling, building pipelines, investing in fossil fuel companies–that allow the future burning of fossil fuels. When governments fail to protect their citizens, citizens must take action to protect themselves, their children, and their futures.
As educators, we call on the University of Chicago to end their complicity in the continued burning of fossil fuels. We call on the University of Chicago to break its ties with the fossil fuel industry, divest from fossil fuel companies, stop co-sponsoring conferences with these companies, and start telling the truth about the culpability of fossil fuel companies in climate change denial. Continuing a close association with these companies while also failing to tell the truth about their overwhelming role in the ultimate destruction of our only home is unworthy of an institution of higher education and makes a mockery of the ideals of truth-seeking, support of just actions, and compassion for suffering that all educational institutions should uphold.
Oil money is blood money. The blood of all of our children is on the hands of those who fail to act.
Our action today is in solidarity with the International Week of Rebellion April 15 – 22, whenpeople on every continent will disrupt business as usual through acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. We won’t stop until the planet is safe.
In Solidarity with Climate Activists Around the World,
Extinction Rebellion Chicago
Further statement from Extinction Rebellion Chicago:
Hi, my name is Victoria, I am a member of the Chicago chapter of Extinction Rebellion, which is an international movement committed to non-violent civil disobedience in the name of truth and urgent action on the climate crisis. Two of our members, who are educators here in the city are physically blocking the doors to the University Club– which is hosting the Energy Forward Conference. This conference’s goal is to discuss how to maximize returns on fossil fuel investments, and to act as a networking event for graduate students at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. We are here to not only confront the members of the conference, but to also reach out to these students to question why they seek jobs within an industry that is destroying the planet they, presumably, also wish to inhabit. In October of 2018, the UN IPCC issued an urgent warning that we must drastically reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2030 in order to avoid irreversible climate tipping points as early as 2040, well within the lifetimes of the business students attending the conference. I am 27, in 2040 I will be 48– the same age as most of the students attending today. My question to them is, what kind of planet do they want to live on? What kind of future are they planning for themselves and their families? Don’t they want to enjoy the benefits of the planet we live on today?
It’s even more strange because Chicago just became the largest city in the USA to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2050– so why is one of its most prestigious Universities acting as the networking arm for an industry that has been proven to be the single greatest cause of global warming?
Listen, you don’t have to be a scientist to see the writing on the wall. We are currently at 1.1C above pre-industrial levels– and you are already seeing catastrophic flooding of America’s heartland, devastating wildfires, and hurricanes that combined have cost the USA $91 billion in 2018 alone. But it’s not just about cost, what do you say to the farmers who have been can no longer farm on the land their families have toiled on for the past 100 years? What do you say to the family who no longer has a home in Paradise, CA or Puerto Rico, or Houston? We all agree that America’s infrastructure is crumbling, why not invest in a future that we can all live in?
The answer is money. In 2016 250 professors at the University of Chicago in solidarity with student activists, urged the elite private university to purge its $7.6 billion endowment in coal, oil and gas companies. The university did not act then, we are hoping they will act today. Thank you.
Photo credit: Tricia Wood (XR Chicago)
Extinction Rebellion Chicago launched on the frigid shore of Lake Michigan on Saturday, January 26, 2019. XR Chicago chose to make their first public appearance alongside a long-standing Chicago tradition, The Polar Plunge, an event which features hundreds of volunteers diving into the freezing Lake Michigan in the dead of winter to raise money for various charities and nonprofits. This tradition, however, could be in jeopardy as climate change threatens to disrupt the weather patterns that humans have grown accustomed to.
With only two weeks notice to recruit, plan, and organize, XR Chicago turned out over 20 members to announce to the world that they are demanding climate truth. True to the principles of the International Extinction Rebellion, the Chicago-based group participated in non-violent direct action. The group was certainly vocal, making their presence known with chants like, “Fires, hurricanes, and floods! Just a sign of things to come!” and “We love the Polar Plunge! It looks so fun! But because of climate change, the polar bears are done!” This is no joke. The Russian territory of Novaya Zemlya has recently been forced to declare a state of emergency because of “dozens of starving polar bears who have been ‘chasing people and entering residential buildings,’” rather than surviving on their natural prey.
Photo credit: Michelle Hartney (XR Chicago)
While the primary focus of Plunge participants was retaining body heat, many of them approached the group for information, conversation, and photo opportunities. Organizers of the Polar Plunge also expressed support for the peaceful protesters, who made it clear they were not protesting the Plunge itself, but the lies, deception, and inaction of government and media regarding the climate crisis bearing down on humanity and all living species.
The hope is that through actions such as the Polar Plunge demonstration, numbers will grow to a size that will lend itself to more disruptive actions in the future. Attempts at environmental legislation have proven to be wildly inadequate and therefore must be met with massive direct action. XR Chicago will join Extinction Rebellion groups worldwide in the International Week of Rebellion beginning April 15.
Extinction Rebellion Chicago can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. XR’s United States website is https://xrebellion.org/xr-us while the international site for the movement is rebellion.earth.
Photo credit: Tricia Wood
The new information emerges every day about how the heating of the Earth is happening, happening more quickly than models have predicted, and becomes exponentially more difficult to adjust to every day that we decline to respond in appropriate measure.
Extinction Rebellion is global network groups working together to send out the alarm that inaction means death. Inaction means death to an accelerating number of species that are disappearing at rates not seen in tens of millions of years. Inaction means vastly increasing risks of dislocation, disease, and, yes, even starvation for hundreds of millions of people who will not have the means to adjust to the climate-driven changes that challenge them. Inaction means raising the likelihood of authoritarian solutions to the severe problems that we will face.
Extinction Rebellion is committed to the use of non-violent direct action to shake people out of their complacency, their confusion, their isolation, and their fear of action. Together we can make a difference!