Why Carol loves talking to people about climate change

Just before Christmas 2022, Carol delivered a talk in central Newcastle about the climate emergency which included her own story and perspective. Here’s a flavour of what she shared on that evening to inspire and encourage us.

Carol is a geochemist who uses the chemistry of rocks to see what the environment was like in the past. She’s done research for Shell, the state owned oil company in Colombia and a geoscience consultancy supporting oil drilling.

What did you discover in your research?

During this time, I learnt a lot about past greenhouse climates, as, funnily enough, the source of most of the world’s fossil fuels are rocks created during past greenhouse periods. During extreme hot global climates, carbon dioxide is drawn down by life in our oceans, to be stored in carbon rich rocks, resulting in a cooling of the planet. And it is these carbon rich rocks which produce oil and gas. We are currently in the process of liberating all that trapped carbon back into the atmosphere. 

And what did you learn about the effects of manmade climate change?

I will never lose interest in the beautiful and rich complexity of the interactions between life and the physical systems on this planet. I have learnt that the planet’s climate is far from stable and although it will no doubt recover from manmade climate change, it will take a long, long time.  I have worked for the Environment Agency and Northumbria Water, and have seen how climate change and our increased consumption is squeezing resources and increasing our impact on our water and land.

How did you respond to what you discovered?

Despite all of this, I thought little more of the climate crisis than how it impacted my work. I avoided news on the climate.. I had no hope, zero! and so buried my fears. I persuaded myself because my work could be helping the environment, there was nothing else I could do but recycle, shop ethically and pray for a miracle. I am not religious so I used to laugh that I was praying for Bill and Ted to come down and save us.

So what changed?

I was more or less in complete denial about the climate crisis before I attended a talk given by Extinction Rebellion in a very full library in Jesmond. It was just after Extinction Rebellion disrupted London in April 2019. There I learnt just how immediate and extreme the crisis was. It was like taking my head out of the sand. But most importantly,  I learnt about Extinction Rebellion’s plan to stop it from getting any worse. They had a PLAN! The first convincing plan I had ever heard! It was a good plan, based on previous movements that had succeeded in creating change against all odds. It didn’t rely on exceptional, powerful individuals, like Bill and Ted, but on us! Not long after, the government declared a climate emergency and I saw that their plan was working!

How have you got involved with Extinction Rebellion?

The first action I got involved with was a die in at Monument, and a few days later a slow cycle through town. I cried so much during those two actions. I think I let out all of the grief and fear that I had kept inside of me my whole adult life. Since then, I have banged a cow bell with the Samba band in London, been moved on by police, trespassed at an open cast coal mine and went almost naked at the Quayside. But the most rewarding thing I have done is talk to lots of complete strangers about the climate crisis on their doorsteps. These conversations have been deeply reassuring because it is clear that nearly all of us are genuinely terrified for the future and therefore could be moved to act.

What gives you hope as you talk to people about the climate crisis?

I see things changing. More and more people get it. The climate crisis is now right up there at the top of people’s concerns and XR has been a big part of getting that message out there.

Politicians have to constantly say what they think people want to hear. They’re desperate to be popular, even if that means being dishonest. We don’t have that problem. Whatever people think of us, the vast majority agree with our message – and that’s all we need.

Do you believe that change is possible?

In 2019 we took to the streets of London for nearly two weeks with a few thousand people and, as a direct result, a climate and ecological emergency was declared by the UK Parliament. What we did had never been seen before.

Ending our reliance on fossil fuels and protecting the natural world would mean less pollution, improved health, more trees and wild spaces, clean rivers, a fairer and sustainable economy and most importantly a planet we can live on. We’re already feeling the costs of inaction through massive energy price rises and, as we see happening now, these costs are felt by ordinary people first and hardest while fossil fuel corporations make obscene profits. A fairer, safer and sustainable future is still possible but, as we have been told by the UN, our window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

So what’s the plan?

The world needs an immediate end to new oil and gas licences and government support for new fossil fuel extraction. This will come about with sustained, coordinated pressure from ordinary people. Millions of people know that we need to make big changes and fast, so we need to get them involved in making it happen. 100,000 of us on the streets would make it clear to everyone that we are a mass movement that represents people from all walks of life.

Our goal is to get 100,000 people onto the streets of London in 2023.

Will you join us?