Whenever I hear an interviewer or journalist say; ‘We know all about the climate crisis but why are you disrupting the ordinary people of Britain?’ I know that they have seen some headlines and they have probably read a few articles, but they don’t know about the crisis. Not really. If they had spent any time looking at the actual science, the actual risks, they would not be asking those questions. They would be out on the roads with us. They would be painting words on pillars. They would be panicking.
For most of my career, I’ve been a theatre and a screenwriter. But about 5 years ago I decided to write a novel set in 2030. And so, I began reading about the future: about artificial intelligence; about new biological gene-splicing techniques; about algorithms and technology. At the bottom of the pile were the books on climate change.
As I read those books, I began to become very disturbed. How could this stuff be true? And if it were, why wasn’t it in the news every night? I went through cycles of anger, numbness, depression, panic, disbelief. Everything was under threat. Why weren’t our politicians acting on it? Why wasn’t Cameron then May and now Johnson making broadcasts to the nation every week about how we should tackle it? Why was it a kind of hypersecret too big to fathom, hanging above us?
I never chose to be an activist. I like being a writer. I like sitting in a quiet room looking up occasionally to see the light move across my neighbour’s wall, but since I found about the climate and ecological crisis of our times, it seemed to me the only rational path was to try to stop the worst happening, to come out of my room. Maybe I am a reluctant re-activist.
At first, I couldn’t understand why more people weren’t reacting like me. At first, I put it down to either a psychological resistance or an inability to understand the science. After all that science is hedged around with probabilities and they can seem a deadly combination of tricky to grasp and boring.
But then, gradually, I came to realize that there are people in my city, men in Tufton Street, who are actively and fiercely working to obstruct the work we need to do to address the climate and ecological crisis. They may not be directly in the pay of Big Oil – how can we tell since they are secretive about their funding? – but they are acting in its service.
This group used to challenge the science, but now they are working against accepting viable solutions in time. They challenge ordinary understanding with false narratives. They try to keep us muddled. And that is why I organized the event at 55 Tufton Street and why I attempted to spray the words Lies Lies Lies on their pillars. In the advent I failed and just sprayed an ugly splotch but my colleagues succeeded.
But let me take you back to the time when I first started to reading the climate science and understand its implications. What pained me most, what gave me the most sleepless nights, was the feeling that I had inadvertently hoodwinked my children into believing they were born into a world in which they have the same life chances as me. I felt I had lied to them. And felt awful that the future looked grim for them. And it took me a while to have the strength to talk to them about this.
But these days what is more painful still, is the fact I have a brand-new person in my life. Iris, my daughter’s daughter, is a humorous child with curly red hair that clusters at the nape of her neck. Iris will be eighty in the year 2100. What will her life be like? What horrors will she have seen and endured?
Right now, Iris is wide open to life. When she looks at a bee, it is with her full attention. Can you imagine what a tiny monstrous thing a bee must seem to new eyes? A furry winged body which issues a noise like a small engine. And her mother tells her that the tiny monster is a good thing.
Iris reminds me that we have been given a wondrous planet, a kind of Eden, that took 3.5 billion years to refine. And even with 60 per cent fewer insects then when I was her age and even with soil that may have less than a hundred years of growing cycles, the planet is still a deep, miraculous gift.
Why are the Global Warming Policy Foundation setting out deliberately to ruin Iris’s future? After all, they are mostly old men with children and grandchildren of their own. I can’t really fathom this. Nor do I really know how to stop them, apart from drawing attention to what they do.
That is the reason I tried to spray the pillars of 55 Tufton Street with the words Lies Lies Lies. And now I need your help, the magistrates in this court, to support me in getting that message across to them. I don’t know what else to do. So, I am asking you to help us ensure Iris has a future.
Jessica Townsend is cofounder of Writers Rebel, editor of the XR podcast, and a writer of fiction and drama. As one of the Tufton Three, she stood trial on October 28th 2021.