I was surprised by Jay Griffith’s book, because I was expecting something which would (rightly) list all the reasons why my actions are destroying the planet and what I should do about that. While that’s arguably part of what’s happening in the book, it’s taking the approach of sentiment: emphasising not just the science, but the collective emotional grief and tragedy associated with the planet’s trajectory. Not how we should rebel, but why.
In a world ruled by narcissists, it is no surprise that humanity seems plagued by a sense of superiority and entitlement when it comes to the planet and its dwindling resources: Griffiths is reminding readers why we should care, not for our own sake necessarily (though certainly an uninhabitable world is our problem), but for the sake of everything from the beetles and bees to the salamanders and songbirds.
The same frame of mind that stops me crushing a butterfly under my boot should motivate my drive to prevent their mass extinction – yet we’ve reached a point where those seem like two different things. It is striking to reflect on, though there’s no question it’s a result of the human ability to distance ourselves from the equation, to pretend our individual actions are not a part of the ginormous butterfly-squashing boot that is the climate emergency.
Griffiths spent a night in prison following acts of civil disobedience during the #ExtinctionRebellion, and her voice is clear, powerful and authentic. Why Rebel does not want to induce guilt, but rather heartbreak: this needs to be personal.
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