This year’s Rebellion Big Year has occupied a core part of my heart. Since I began a journey of obsessing about different priorities during each year from age 60, most of my preoccupations have been selfish or cultural or exploratory. In 2020, for the first time, I was going to carve out time from writing and family and self interest to put something back into the community. I chose Extinction Rebellion and it’s been a welcoming home to my aspirations to turn around humankind’s willful lack of action on global warming.
A Big Year needs structure, specifically a daily call to action, be it large or small. I chose to simply commit a minimum of an hour a day, but over time averaging out at two hours/day or more (some activist actions take a lot of time, for example getting arrested). So for four months I dutifully hunkered down each day on various activities: getting the hang of XR; helping my local XR group with its administration and meetings; reading up on global warming and climate actions and climate inaction; managing an XR Facebook group; educating myself about the science of global warming and global energy politics; and much more. At court in March and the end of April, my October 2019 arrest spent itself out, culminating in an easy “no charge” diversion. I felt empowered and, after plenty of initial nerves, at peace within the sprawling, somewhat structureless organism called Extinction Rebellion.
Covid-19 delivered a death blow to the Rebellion Big Year, because suddenly the very heart of the movement, non-violent civil disobedience on the streets, was no longer possible. And even today, it seems unlikely XR will be able to play much of a role in the post-Coronavirus world until at least the late Spring. But even before lockdown sapped my Big Year of its heartbeat, I’d realized something: activism is tough to allocate to a geeky “every day” obsession. Activism, by its nature, waxes and wanes, sometimes all-consuming, sometimes the storm to retreat from. Once you’re hooked onto an activist path, it has its own momentum and a “Big Year” framework adds little.
So, with reluctance, I have called this Big Year quits after four months and a bit. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed squaring up to my anxieties and rolling my sleeves up again in the messy world. The daily stricture of at least thinking about activism has definitely helped me. But now there seems little point, and I no longer need the crutch. I could be disappointed in myself, with dropping something partway through, but any plans on New Years Day made no allowance for the global and local impacts of this deadly virus.
I shall continue to be active within Extinction Rebellion and elsewhere, but the Rebellion Big Year is hereby cancelled.